Global Student Embassy Promotes Peace-Sebastopol
Traveling to Promote Peace
By Jasper Oshun
The Global Student Embassy (GSE) is a project that seeks to build a cross cultural dialogue between students in Sebastopol and their counterparts in Santa Fe, Argentina, and Zurite, Peru. The project, started in September, is beginning to catch the attention of our community.
Due to the fiscal sponsorship of the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center (SCCC), and the support of local businesses and individuals, the project is beginning to achieve grassroots success. My brother Lucas and I are grateful for our community’s involvement, evidenced by a successful November 14th fundraiser at the SCCC. The support of the community is vital to making this a successful project. We thank everyone for their support, and we are excited at the prospect of hosting 6 students and two teachers from Argentina and Peru this January.
Our motivation for the project arose from two ideals. Dissatisfied ourselves with our government’s foreign policies and approaches to international relations, we were heartened by the global community’s ability to view us as fellow-global citizens, not as agents of our government. This emboldened my brother and me to seek ways in which we could build extra-governmental relations with friends and enthusiasts of the project along our travels. Providing an opportunity for our South American participants to travel is inherent to the project. Secondly, we sought some way to maintain the passion, excitement and openness of mind we were accustomed to while traveling once we returned to Sebastopol. How could we, two recent college graduates, use our creativity to share the magic of exploring the world with our hometown community? The Global Student Embassy has become our answer.
GSE has three goals, the first being to enable travel for those who would not otherwise have the means or opportunity. The majority of existing exchange programs send privileged youths to study amongst other communities of relative privilege. We want to provide young people in low-income areas an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of our community apart from the narrow representation of American culture that is pervasive around the world. The second goal is to establish a dialogue between communities that fosters understanding and learning through a commitment to public service. Significant contributions to our respective home-towns can be made through the energy and enthusiasm of our youth. Finally, we seek to broaden the horizons of our student participants to promote peace.
To achieve these goals, we teach a cultural awareness and international relations class one day a week at Analy. We explore the values of Sebastopol, its socioeconomic status relative to our sister communities, and the potential of youth to create positive change. Outside of class, our students discuss fundraising strategies, and develop and plan community service projects via Skype with the South American students. From mid-January to mid-February, 4 students from Santa Fe, Argentina, and 2 from an Andean village outside of Cusco, Peru will stay with local families, and engage in public service projects. Our schedule will include a bilingual soccer camp, cultural presentations to students at Park Side Elementary, Spanish classes at the Sebastopol Senior Center, environmental restoration work, a collaborative project with the Graton Day Labor Center, and local tourism.
Lucas and I will continue to fundraise as we work to expand the goals of GSE to other West County high schools. This spring we are planning to explore possible future sights of GSE, both locally and abroad. The Global Student Embassy is a simple idea that utilizes the increasing interconnectedness of the world to connect small communities. Through learning cultural differences, engaging in public service and sharing positive experiences, GSE aims to build peace around the globe. This summer, Lucas will lead a group of students to Santa Fe, Argentina, while I lead a group to Zurite Peru. We invite readers to learn more by calling 829-1026, or at www.seb.org.