New generation of leaders

Youth Ambassadors

Participants in the Global Youth Ambassadors Summit tour the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Photo: Vibhu Sreevatsa Rangavasan

Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI) and UIC hosted and sponsored an educational, collaborative leadership development forum last month to grow a new generation of leaders with a class of 20 young women, ages 14 to 16, from around the world.

The first Global Youth Ambassadors Summit, which took place July 23 to 30, was an educational opportunity for nine girls from Chicago and 11 from other cities celebrate differences and catalyze partnerships. The collaboration was inspired by Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn Initiative, which strives to empower women through education. This year’s global participants represented Birmingham, UK; Bogota, Colombia; Durban, South Africa; Lucerne, Switzerland; Mexico City, Mexico; Paris, France; and Toronto, Canada.

“UIC is very much about producing leadership that is change-oriented,” said Natalie Bennett, assistant director of gender and women’s studies. The summit’s curriculum was developed by Bennett and Veronica Arreloa, assistant director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender and the director of the Women in Science and Engineering program. “Supporting a program like this really shows UIC’s commitment to developing leadership within Chicago, but also extending its resources to other institutions, building those connections and creating new spaces for young people to really act on and change the world.”

The curriculum included workshops on models of leadership and strategies for advocacy and activism. The roster of guest speakers featured a variety of women who were distinguished corporate professionals and community activists. Participants also engaged in activities such as visiting nearby neighborhoods, historic sites, cultural centers, museums and other institutions.

At the conclusion of the summit, ambassadors presented group projects to Chicago’s corporate and civic communities at Chicago City Hall Council Chambers. The weeklong projects explored questions about womanhood, strength and confidence.

“It was an amazing opportunity for all of the young women to see the ways that women have made a difference, but to also imagine new ways that they can make a difference in their own communities and cities where they live,” Bennett said.

“The program was a great success,” added Marty Gutierrez, senior director of the Office of Public and Government Affairs.

“We have been asked to participate next year to continue to grow this partnership and enhance the program. We’re looking forward to it.”

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