GCI Ambassadors Share Their Summer 2020 Experiences
Dear GCI Community,
We have shared that the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement have reinforced how important it is to empower young global citizens from all sectors of society. Like many of our GCI Ambassadors, GCI has had to pivot this summer and we are reimagining how we move our mission forward. We have increased our focus on the Ambassador community, by holding Virtual Harkness®* and Hangout Sessions and by reinvigorating the purpose our Ambassador Advisory Council and Class Agents. We are grateful to have been able to connect and reconnect with so many in our community, in the process.
GCI is always impressed by our Ambassadors’ sense of purpose, even during the toughest of times, and would like to share some examples of their efforts this summer.
Kevin Zhen (GCI Ambassador 2015, Ambassador Advisory Council):
Miami, Florida, United States
Teaching the Next Generation
When Kevin flew home to Miami for spring break, he thought he was about to set off for Amsterdam and then return to finish his senior year at Yale University, as planned. Then, travel bans and flight restrictions to Europe were put into place. Kevin never got to go to Amsterdam, and he didn't get to return to school to complete his last semester either.
While at home, Kevin decided to use the skills he has already developed as an entrepreneur to help young students in the new school-from-home environment. Kevin started ZhenEd to help teach 7th to 10th graders how to design and launch their own businesses, social enterprises, movements and projects, just as Kevin has been doing ever since participating in the GCI Fellowship in 2015.
Through his network, Kevin has had over 130 students from Canada, South Korea, China and 30 states in the US attend his ZhenEd Webinar and ZhenEd Incubator. The Webinar focuses on teaching students how to plan and explore ideas through weekly group classes, while the Incubator aims to have each student execute their project.
During this time, Kevin also graduated from Yale University, attended weekly online dance sessions and continued to figure out his next steps, including planning fall and winter offerings of his Webinar and Incubator.
Photo 1: Kevin presenting at the GCI Summit 2018, a favorite photo he uses on his website. Photo 2: ZhenEd's Summer Incubator. Photo 3: A ZhenEd online class.
Sydney Ochieng (GCI Ambassador 2017, GSP Seed Funding Winner):
Connecticut, U.S. and Kisumu, Kenya
Learning and Helping From a Distance
Months before the pandemic swept across the world, Sydney had shipped 20 computers and textbooks from Connecticut–where he attends Wesleyan University–to Kenya for the center he is establishing to help local students get into American universities. However, because of the coronavirus, his partners at home were unable to collect the shipment until June. Once local restrictions were lifted, they were finally able to set up the center. Although schools in Kenya are closed until January 2021, which makes their recruitment process more complicated, Sydney’s partners have nevertheless started to identify students to join the center. Currently, most of their efforts are focused on fundraising to be able to support double the number of students intended for next year.
When not helping to organize the center from afar, Sydney also worked remotely as a Summer Analyst in Fixed Income at Morgan Stanley. With early starts and long days, he learned a lot throughout his internship and is excited to have been asked to return next year for another summer position at Morgan Stanley.
Grateful for the tremendous opportunity that their internships provided them during these uncertain times, Sydney and some friends contributed to and raised money to buy food and supplies for distribution to the underprivileged in Kenya. They collectively raised US$750 (about 80,000 Kenyan shillings) and Sydney is excited about how much more they may raise in the weeks to come.
Photo 1: Sydney's most recent headshot. Photo 2: Sydney's photo on the rotating digital display at Morgan Stanley's headquarters in Times Square in New York City.
Chaitanya Venkateswaran (GCI Ambassador 2019, Class Agent):
New Delhi, India
Planning for the Future
Chaitanya is one of our newest Ambassadors, having just completed the GCI Fellowship in April. Like many in her Fellowship cohort, Chaitanya, graduated secondary school during the height of uncertainty of COVID-19. Her last exam was taken right before India imposed lockdowns nationwide and her summer plans to travel around her home country were cancelled indefinitely. Yet these disappointments have not stopped Chaitanya from making the most of her final summer before college!
Chaitanya organized herself and her friends to sort through their old textbooks and other books and donate them to local schools and students. She took time to explore all the virtual opportunities that American University in Washington DC–where she will be a college freshman in the fall– had to offer this summer. Chaitanya also applied for two different leadership programs at American University, the SPA Leadership Program and the Lincoln Scholars Program in Political Thought, and she was accepted into both.
The GCI Team was thrilled that Chaitanya participated in every one of GCI's Virtual Harkness®* and Hangout Sessions to date. Beyond school, Chaitanya has caught up on her reading and spent time pursuing her artistic talents. She has also dedicated time to learning how to read and write in her mother tongue, Tamil.
Chaitanya is looking forward to her online classes at American University in the fall and hopes to be on campus during the spring of 2021.
Photo 1: Chaitanya with one of the many novels she has read this summer. Photo 2: A sampling of Chaitanya's recent art.
GCI also has made the most of the summer of 2020 and we continue to look forward and plan for the year ahead. We are grateful to Kevin, Sydney and Chaitanya for sharing their experiences and hope they are as inspiring to you as they are to us.
Yumi and the GCI Team
*Harkness® is a registered trademark of Phillips Exeter Academy