UIC hosts next generation of global leaders

Ambassadors from the Global Youth Ambassadors Leadership Program and UIC staff participated in a closing ceremony with presentations at City Hall July 26. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

UIC hosted 25 teenage girls — some who traveled internationally — for the Global Youth Ambassadors Leadership Program July 20-26.

The program, run jointly by UIC and Chicago Sister Cities International, aims to build the next generation of global leaders. Ten participants, who range in age from 14 to 16, were from Chicago while 15 were from Chicago’s 29 international sister cities — from Shanghai, China, to Accra, Ghana, and Paris, France, to Lahore, Pakistan.

During the week in Chicago, ambassadors engaged in workshops, discussions and presentations that promoted leadership development, cross-cultural awareness and civic exchange.

“UIC participates in this program because we do see ourselves as a global campus — an international campus — not only in terms of our diversity of our students, but also we do have a lot of international students,” said Veronica Arreola, director of UIC’s Latin@s Gaining Access to Networks for Advancement in Science program. “The idea of partnering with the Chicago Sister Cities to help host and run this program just seems perfectly aligned with UIC’s mission.”

Participants stayed in UIC’s James Stukel Towers residence hall during their time in Chicago, and explored the campus and the city. They met with Chicago business and civic leaders and participated in a closing ceremony and presentations in City Council Chambers at City Hall.

“For most, if not all, it’s their first taste of a college campus, and it’s really important for them to see UIC as this international space and a place to go in the future,” Arreola said.

During a visit to Motorola, for example, participants heard from women who use technology in their careers — even in surprising ways, Arreola said.

“When I talk with students when they come to UIC and they want to be scientists, sometimes they aren’t sure what that means or have a limited scope of what that means,” said Arreola, who also was a member of the Global Youth Ambassadors Leadership Program planning committee. “But to have the ambassadors see that all these companies, whether they look like a tech company or not, rely heavily on technology is important.”

Program participants are selected through an application process and attend the program for free; Chicago Sister Cities International pays for travel expenses for international participants. This year was UIC’s fourth hosting the program, Arreola said.

When applying, participants write a series of essays, including what it means to be a girl in their respective communities. Arreola said she hopes students left the Global Youth Ambassadors Leadership Program feeling a connectedness after creating an international network to address issues related to feminism at home.

“We try to make those connections on a global, international scale to let them know that what they are experiencing is not unique to their city, neighborhood or community, and in many ways, they are global issues — but violence in India may look differently than violence in Colombia,” she said. “We are all working on a lot of the same issues, but maybe just different angles.”

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