Alumni Success Story

San Antonio High School Student’s Leadership Skills Flourish With Virtual Exchange

Culturingua’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Journey

Alma was an International Baccalaureate (IB) student in her second year of high school when she joined Culturingua’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Journey (GSEJ). Through engagement with Libyan students in this project-based exchange, Alma came out of the program a more knowledgeable and motivated student.

three people standing together for a photo, one holding a certificate
Alma with her GSEJ facilitators

Alma jumped on the opportunity to participate in Culturingua’s GSEJ because of her interest in international affairs. She joined the program, excited for “the chance to connect with other students that are like minded across the world,” and formed a group with Libyan students to develop a solution to address climate change. Throughout the seven week exchange, she developed strong friendships with her Libyan peers.

Climate change was not a new topic for Alma. She was previously involved as a member of the San Antonio Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council for Climate Initiatives, where she designed a community impact project to address a critical local issue: food insecurity. In 2023, San Antonio Food Bank found that Texas is ranked second in the nation for food insecurity and that one in six people live in food-insecure homes. Alma took the lessons and insights she learned from this local community effort and applied it to the work she was doing with Culturingua. She had to think bigger and take into consideration her peers’ different approaches to collaboratively arrive at a solution that was agreeable to all.

A man and woman posed for a photo
Alma with San Antonio’s Mayor, Ron Nirenberg

Alma also found an unexpected take away from Culturingua’s GSEJ. Through this virtual exchange, she was able to connect with students thousands of miles away, but she could still relate to them on a level that was different to other young people in her local community. Alma connected with her Libyan peers as people of color who are also eager to make a difference in their communities and share her passion and drive. She is “grateful that Culturingua was able to factor in student voices that could see environmental racism in their local communities” and provide a valuable perspective to addressing these issues in the U.S. and abroad.

Before participating in Culturingua’s GSEJ, Alma thought she would go into a career in environmental law, as a result of her experiences working on local climate initiatives. After being pushed to look at climate issues on a global scale, she realized that there was another aspect of environmental law that intrigued her: international environmental law. This program gave Alma the perspective and exposure she needed to open her mind to other possible career paths and areas of study.

Alma remains motivated and eager to advocate for other virtual exchange programs. She provided valuable feedback as a member of Culturingua’s Global Youth Advisors Council based on her perspective as a young person who this program is meant to serve,which has been incorporated and valued as a crucial part to improving future programming. In recognition of her contributions, she was selected to represent the young voices that emerge from the program as keystakeholders and community members as Culturingua’s Future Ready Youth Leader.When asked why she believes she was chosen for the role, Alma realizes that it’s a result of her intentional effort to stay engaged in the program and her genuine desire to see the program succeed and its impact to continue.

“I believe I was chosen for [the role] because of the amount of time I spent with Culturingua and the amount of effort I put into giving feedback as a young leader. It was very important for me to give that feedback because, without feedback from students like myself, there wouldn’t be room for improvement.”

Not only has Alma offered her voice to share about the power virtual exchange has on young people, but she is also continuing to participate in other virtual exchanges. When she learned that two fellow alumni of the Culturingua program were implementing their own virtual exchange as part of the Stevens Initiative Alumni Fellowship, she applied. Alma was drawn to the dialogue-based exchange between the Iraq, Libya, and the U.S. with the primary goal of cross-cultural learning.

“With [this exchange], it’s [about] getting to know each other on a closer level while still developing professional skills. We learned about conflict resolution, how to identify measurable goals for ourselves, allowing us to improvise individually while also learning about other countries.”

Virtual exchange is a tool for molding the next generation of leaders. But in Alma’s case, she has always been a leader. Her participation in Culturingua’s GSEJ and other virtual exchanges has only opened her mind further and encouraged her to consider her leadership on an even bigger scale.

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