Through our Global Education, we often say that today’s Ursuline students are tomorrow’s global leaders, and we strive to accommodate that within our students by providing and supporting them in their efforts to engage with cultures and people around the world. We are thrilled to say that we have five seniors, through FOCUS’ Youth Leadership St. Louis program, who are participating in the American Council on Germany on a project called the German-American Sister Cities Youth Forum, a virtual exchange designed to engage young civic leaders ages 14 to 21 in Germany and the U.S. in a transatlantic dialogue about issues confronting their local communities.
Ursuline students Emily Dacus ’22, Heidi Fox ’22, Kathleen Michalski ’22, Lauren Weber ’22 and Fang (Spring) Zhou ’22 are all returning to working with FOCUS’ Youth Leadership and joining in this exchange, while also being the largest participating school. The series of interactive meetings, which run through December 2021, will discuss issues including climate change and sustainability; diversity, equity and inclusion; and the importance of civic engagement and youth participation in their communities.
Lauren was excited for the opportunity to work with FOCUS’ Youth Leadership again after previously being involved as a Junior. “I learned that while two cities [can be] miles apart, there is not so much that separates us,” she said of her experience. “I wanted to take this once-in-a-lifetime chance to talk to people from another country about issues that affect both of our societies.”
The key objectives of the German-American Sister Cities Youth Forum are:
- to strengthen the relationship and ties between German and American sister cities, specifically by focusing on the next generation of leaders in their communities.
- to engage youth leaders in local communities in an open and transparent manner and to build greater mutual understanding and collaboration with their counterparts in Germany and the United States.
- to provide youth with an opportunity to discuss key issues impacting their communities – climate change and sustainability, racial inequality and diversity, and civic engagement – so that they are understood in a global context and also so that youth can learn and share ideas on how to address them.
- to have youth in these communities identify concrete ways in which they could collaborate with their foreign counterparts.
- to create a foundation on which the youth organizations in the sister cities can build a sustainable, long-term relationship for further exchange and dialogue on these issues (and others) in the future.
“Simply talking with German students about the things I never paid much attention to, such as environmental protections and Germany–Saudi Arabia relations, is really enjoyable,” said Spring Zhow about her time in the program. As the team prepares for their third meeting this week, we as a community are so proud of them, and looking forward to the remainder of the semester and the continuing conversations.
About Youth Leadership St. Louis:
Founded in 1989, Youth Leadership St. Louis (YLSL) is an internationally recognized program that informs, connects, prepares and empowers St. Louis area youth to become civic and community leaders. A program of FOCUS St. Louis, YLSL brings together high school juniors from schools and organizations across the region to explore issues ranging from criminal justice and health care to education and diversity, while putting their leadership skills into action.