When the Classroom is Their Passport

Posted by Afiya Williams on
Fri, 04/13/2018

Dialogue is important now more than ever. The world is currently undergoing a major transition, and into what new realities, no one can be certain. We may feel the tension in our schools, jobs and communities or question how to react to what we learn or witness in the media. And while the idea of a “global mindset” is spreading, there is a ubiquitous equal intensity of national and cultural pride as well. Community efforts are simultaneous in wanting to both understand others better and to protect our families and homes. I find that the world shifting creates a feeling that pride in one’s heritage risks negative interpretation by those of another background.

Trickling down from adult experiences, there is a youth awakening as young people witness the role of political decisions in their daily lives, the expansion of globalism and the dangers of poor leadership. Not only are students actively aware, they carry their own beliefs and standpoints with which affect their morphing identities and vision for the world. For all of these reasons, and many more, Global Nomads Group and Students Rebuild are advocates of dialogue amongst and across the student populations of the world. True enough “the children are the future” yet their voices are often left out of the decisions for our present and future. The work of Global Nomads Group, in support of each year’s Students Rebuild challenge, provides the space and microphone to recognize and amplify these voices.

As we have invited young people to reflect on identity this year, I am moved by the many stories I have heard from my school visits, our three short films celebrating friendship across difference and from the students in our first webcast of the year. Our goal is not to imply or enforce that “we are all the same” but to recognize that we do in fact carry differences from one another. And with our differences, similarities can emerge and unite us. That is why this work is important to both of our teams.

Our first webcast celebrated religious difference. Students from Nigeria, Alaska, and Kentucky joined the conversation, bringing an array of religious identities to the table, and discussed their practices, values, and advice for the future. Proud Christian and Muslim students from Search for Common Ground came joined from Nigeria, where religious tension runs high, setting a strong example of what overcoming difference can do to create peace for a community. Students in both Kentucky and Alaska shared stories of their choices to not practice religion, how they came to understand the Muslim faith better through new friends and of the misconceptions made about young Christians.

Beyond the exciting yearly art-making activity or short films highlighting young people, there are larger objectives tied to creating global awareness by engaging students with each other. The ability to create connections, have empathy for others or take action towards a goal are characteristics of a strong leader. With each challenge and the ongoing work of both Global Nomads Group and Students Rebuild, we highlight student identities while bringing humanitarian issues to the classroom through technology and removing the barriers of access to travel once required. With our webcasts, we advance awareness and push perspectives about the lives of those in near or far away places.

I am a firm believer that learning is best as an engaging experience. With webcasts, short films and virtual reality at the ready, GNG provides immersive opportunities to engage with difference immediately within the classroom. The art service component offered by Students Rebuild ensures the challenge is relatable, accessible and empowering.

With two webcasts and less than three months remaining in the challenge, I invite you to join us with your students for these unique opportunities. Our next live stream event on February 28th, a conversation on race, will engage multiple perspectives from students who face and work to understand the race relations in their respective schools. Our final webcast on April 27th will host a conversation on immigration and integration with students from the South Caucasus.

How excited am I to join two teams, Students Rebuild and Global Nomads Group, dedicated to providing immersive and virtual opportunities to students across the globe, regardless of a passport. 

Written by:

Afiya Williams, Global Nomads Group

You can find more information on the Facing Difference Challenge here.