Sixty youth and adults will travel across the globe this year — from sub-Saharan Africa all the way to SUNY Plattsburgh — for short-term study through the new Youth Leadership Program with Francophone Africa.
The program, which will offer lessons on youth leadership, American government and more, is funded by a U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs grant. Awarded to SUNY Plattsburgh and PAGE Inc., or the Program for African Growth through Education, this $330,000 grant was the only one of its kind to have been given this year.
| Left to right: Amy Sotherden, Dr. Bryan Higgins,
Marguerite Adelman, and Dr. Jean Ouédraogo
Designed to enrich the experience of Francophone African youth and adults through two three-week exchanges, the Youth Leadership Program will bring 30 individuals from Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to Plattsburgh in March 2012 and an additional 30 from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Mauritania in September 2012.
In addition to lessons about leadership and government, the visitors will take part in team-building, community-mapping, civic-responsibility, ethics and community-service activities. They’ll visit local schools, non-profits and government offices and even take a bus trip to Albany and Washington, D.C., to see state and federal governments at work.
Then they will develop six community-service projects that will be implemented when they return to Africa. PAGE will continue to follow these projects, even after the visitors have left Plattsburgh.
“PAGE not only will stay in touch with our community service teams in Africa but also will provide support and ongoing guidance,” said Marguerite Adelman, director of graduate admissions for SUNY Plattsburgh and curriculum consultant for the Youth Leadership Program.
As part of their experience, the visitors will stay in homes throughout Plattsburgh.
“Participants will be able to see firsthand what it is like to live in an American home,” said Dr. Bryan Higgins, director of international education at SUNY Plattsburgh. “At the same time, they will be sharing their cultural background, enriching the lives of members of the Plattsburgh community.
Dr. Jean Ouédraogo — a professor and chair of foreign languages and literature; an associate of Canadian studies; the board president of PAGE Inc.; and the director of the Youth Leadership Program — sees the exchanges as a boost to the local economy.
“The federal funds will translate directly into an employment opportunity for folks within the college and local community, and indirectly for service providers,” Ouédraogo said. “Beyond such immediate positive impacts, we are hopeful that SUNY Plattsburgh will become part of the mix of U.S. colleges that students from the six countries consider in the future, bringing tuition dollars to the college. Above all, the future leaders to come out of this extraordinary experience will always associate our community with their success.”
The program also provides an opportunity for local language and social studies teachers “to engage their students and their visiting peers in an enlightening give and take,” one that can be both linguistically and culturally rewarding, said Ouédraogo.
Those wanting more information about the Youth Leadership Program can contact Amy Sotherden, project coordinator, at (518) 564-2385. Meanwhile, Plattsburgh-area residents wanting to learn about hosting a Francophone African youth or adult can contact Theresa Bennett, home stay coordinator, at (518) 564-2160.
- Michelle Ouellette
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