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Introducing the GCI LEAD Challenge Participants!

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

We are thrilled to introduce you to the GCI LEAD Challenge 2021 Participants! 

In just a few weeks, 36 current and recently graduated secondary school students from all sectors of society and all corners of the globe will join GCI for the first GCI LEAD Challenge program. The virtual 6-day program will focus on Leadership, Ethics, Advocacy and Design Thinking as participants build key leadership skills and explore thought-provoking ideas while experiencing core components of GCI's flagship program, the Summit.

All 36 participants will gain the tools, resources and mindsets to be agents of positive change, empowered to advocate for themselves and their communities. As GCI alumni, they will join a lifelong global community, where they and other GCI alumni can support each other and continue their journeys alongside GCI staff, friends and mentors.

This amazing cohort represents 30 different cultural heritages, speaks 28 languages and attends 30 schools in 14 countries! And 58% of them have received need-based financial aid to take part in the GCI LEAD Challenge.

Continue reading to learn more about each participant and their story.



School: Noble & Greenough School

Home Countries: India, the Netherlands, United States

“In 8th grade, I was excited to join a newly created program to make a positive impact on the school community through acts of kindness. The program failed to gain traction and was ultimately shut down by the program leader. Disappointed, two classmates and I got together to discuss how we could revive the program. We realized that many who joined didn’t understand how standing up and being a good leader could help create change. We believed the true mandate was to help understand what it takes to become a great leader, and to create connections between all the students who are passionate about creating positive change. We realized we could use the power of social networking to bring together student leaders who wanted to drive change. After months of intensive collaboration, we converted the initial concept into a student-focused leadership development and personal growth program for high school students and faculty mentors.”


School: Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa

Home Country: Kenya

“I was seated in my school religious class and I bravely put up my hand to ask a question regarding the Bible we were using and the moment I spoke, it felt as if death itself was upon me. I have always been intrigued by the background of Christianity in relation to the Bible and its irregularities. To further elaborate, I used to question why different Bibles told us different tales. I still look towards other means of obtaining information to satisfy my intellectual desire. Even though I was often shunned and frowned down upon for disagreeing, I became more persistent, allowing me to keep dreaming and be a go-getter for the world we live in today. No one gave me the answers that I needed to feel complete, and this used to be something that frustrated me as it demonstrated to me the lengths that people like me in society must endure to seek answers and keep looking beyond.”


School: Hong Kong International School

Home Countries: Hong Kong, United States

“I grew up in a multi-religious household. From a young age, I can remember attending churches on Sunday with my mother and visiting temples with my father during Chinese New Year. I remember looking up to my parents who both believed, so passionately, in their religions and thinking to myself that I didn’t belong to any religion. This battle with identity has been a long, ongoing cycle that I haven’t been able to resolve. My questions were answered when I took the course “Spiritual Explorations.” We learned about the myriad of religions in the world and focused on the path of self-discovery. Through this experience, I realized that I identified most with the term “agnostic.” I believe that desires are what push us to work harder, achieve goals in life and become the best versions of ourselves. Through all this, I have realized that even though everyone has different views and religious beliefs, it is still possible for everyone to have their own opinion.”


School: Diocesan Girls' School

Home Country: Hong Kong

“I participated in the Kowloon Hospital geriatric ward summer service project in 2019. My teammates and I were responsible for arranging a “shadow play” (a form of Chinese theatre acted by colorful silhouette figures accompanied by music) for the patients. Some patients were fascinated, while some were not interested. I questioned the effectiveness of this activity and proposed that we revamp the activity into an interactive DIY session. I challenged the originally planned activity as I tried to put myself into the patient’s shoes. With the creative improvisation of activity design and delivery, the patients engaged in the activities more enthusiastically. During the service, not only could the patients appreciate the shadow play we prepared, but they could also gain a sense of accomplishment with their hands-on experience.”


School: Lebawi International Academy

Home Country: Ethiopia

"Throughout my childhood, I always believed what my parents told me. I assumed they were more experienced than me and I shouldn’t question them. But as I grew older, one thought kept popping into my head - why did my parents not want me to become a football player? My parents thought that football was a big risk for my well-being, is not as respectable as being a doctor or an engineer and that it’ll take time away from my academic success. I had to challenge this. My parents and I had long conversations as I tried to convince them that footballers are respected, that injuries are a part of football and that I can pursue my passion as a hobby without it affecting my grades at school. I told them that football allows me to make friends and is also good exercise. Now, I represent my school football team, I train with a local football training academy and have been promoted one level above my age."


School: Rato Bangala School

Home Country: Nepal

"Animal sacrifice, although reduced, still accounts for an important religious tradition amongst the believers of Hinduism. I was born in a Hindu family. My community holds a festival every three years called the Dewali, where goats are offered as a sacrificial being in the name of goddesses. For these offerings, each house from the community has to bring forth one goat to prompt prosperity and happiness to the family. Growing up, I despised the tradition. After 2008, I voiced my opinion to my grandfather and he, although a supporter of old beliefs, sympathized with my opinion. In 2011, our family announced that we would no longer participate in the age-old tradition of sacrifices. While at first our decision was met with raised eyebrows, soon after, other families followed our footsteps. My agency and voice have caused a ripple effect and I can only hope that although much needs to be changed, a small step at a time goes a long way."


School: Colegio Nueva Granada

Home Country: Colombia

"Some years ago, I was invited to a massive party in the suburbs of Bogotá and almost everyone I knew was invited. But early the next morning I had a tennis tournament, which was basically going to decide my future in a tennis division. My friends, my cousins and many other people were trying to convince me to go to this party. What made me decide what I was going to do was my own gut. I decided to avoid the party and went to bed early. The next day I woke up ready to play my best in the tennis tournament. Unfortunately, I lost in the third round of the tournament, but I was happy for my decisions and proud of myself for doing what was better for me as a person and for my health. In controversial moments I always try to follow my gut and think with my head, not with my heart. Thinking with your head will ultimately set you up for success and pave a path filled with gratitude."


School: Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar

Home Country: India

"A few years back, I heard someone say, “I hate feminism.” I asked my teacher what feminism is, the gesture and the voice of that person made me feel as if it’s a derogatory remark. But my teacher told me feminism is about demanding equal rights. I started working with the junior students. My aim was to break gender stereotypes in nursery students by introducing them to coloring books that send a message of gender neutrality. I also reinvented fairytales and narrated them to junior school students to break stereotypical mindsets. I realized that this inequality is not just between male and female, but also people of different sexual orientations. Through my social venture, Sehpaathi, I work on busting myths that surround the LGBT community and acid attack survivors. We also groom them and then get them employed. I have worked intensively with acid attack survivors from the Chaanv Foundation and helped them with their e-commerce website."

Eleanor "Ellie"

School: Lowell High School

Home Country: United States

"The deep south was my home for nearly six years. In yearbook photos, I was the only black-head in a sea of blonde. Not a week went by that I wasn’t mocked for having “Chinese eyes” and smelly Asian lunches. I constantly felt out of place and uncomfortable in my own skin. Sadly, I didn’t see anything wrong with the racial comments flung at me. I only saw how wrong my Korean identity was. I was embarrassed by the assumptions that haunted me. I worked hard to convince everyone I was the least stereotypical Asian. I refused to learn Korean, I ate Lunchables and I laughed off racist comments. Years later I moved to a city renowned for its Asian majority, San Francisco. Suddenly Caucasian kids ate seaweed and Korean culture was popular. Where was I? This city challenged everything I had been influenced to believe about my ancestry and Asian American background. Startlingly, I realized that I am proud to be Korean. I am no longer ashamed of who I am. I am proud to introduce my friends to my culture."


School: Andinet International School

Home Country: Ethiopia

"The first time I delivered a speech to a sizable group of people, I stood there frozen and nervous, mentally chewing the words I was about to speak. Ignoring all the eyes on me, I fixated on my brother’s thumbs-up. I stared right into my brother’s eyes and started my speech. Mid-way through, as I gradually gained confidence, my eyes darted between my brother and the crowd. My classmates later reported how brave, fearless and effortless my performance seemed. But no one knew how I felt deep inside, the churning in my stomach and thumping in my heart and the trembling in my hands. That experience was the beginning of a long journey out of stage fright into looking for the courage to stare fear in the face and overcome the obstacles that barred my potential as a public speaker. Stage fright is a weakness a majority of people have, but a weakness can be turned into a strength. Since that day of my first speech before a large crowd, I’ve gained more confidence, courage and, most of all, self-esteem and independence."


School: Phillips Exeter Academy

Home Country: United States

"Entering Exeter, I had one dream: to make Crew. Throughout the fall and winter, I eagerly anticipated spring when I’d be able to make the team. It greatly wounded my pride and self-worth when I did not make the cut. During that spring, I’d sit on a bench beside the river and watch the shells race by. I asked upperclassmen about my chances of making the team next year, but they were clear: it wasn’t going to happen. I refused to quit and over the next year trained in silence. I knew others had the coach’s daily guidance, and it would be extraordinarily difficult to match their skill on my own. But I wanted to prove to myself that when determined, I could achieve my goals. Over the fall and winter I greatly increased the intensity of my workouts, looking to build myself into better shape. When tryouts arrived my sophomore year… I succeeded. Not only was I able to bounce back from failure; I was able to challenge the very notions which constrained me."


School: Boston Latin School

Home Country: United States

"'If you make it past the exam, you are a superior student, a future leader.' This was the narrative I learned upon entering my school, but it didn’t take long for me to question what hid behind the stately facade. At the end of my first year, students of color came forward to detail encounters with racist teachers, only to be rebuffed by the administration. I started to learn more about how our education system upholds the white supremacist structure on which the United States was founded. The test we use to determine who is worthy of an exam school was developed by someone hoping to prove the white race superior to all others. After tenth grade, I joined the Boston Student Advisory Council to fight these inequities firsthand and was exposed to campaigns ranging from housing justice to safe consumption sites, to taking police out of schools. These have taught me restorative justice and how to approach problems with empathy."


School: John Jay High School

Home Country: United States

"I live in a community that I always considered idyllic and just. The events of 2020 coupled with my own personal growth opened my eyes. I witnessed community members ripping political and BLM signs out of lawns, read degrading social media posts and was shamed for being a woman working at a hardware store. To further inform myself on how change can be brought to my town, I joined my school’s Equity and Racial Justice Team. I heard stories about people attacking political beliefs and biracial families experiencing discriminatory behavior. I also joined the teen leadership committee of Westchester Youth Alliance. We aim to educate peers about injustice in the community and worldwide. My awakening also led me to be involved with two political campaigns. Although my actions have been on a small scale so far, I hope my participation has made a positive impact on my community."


School: Phillips Exeter Academy

Home Countries: United States

"There was a disagreement between the student body and the principal on how to deal with assault cases on campus. The principal stated that he would make the final decision. The student body disagreed that the decision should lie solely with the principal. A few hundred students staged a protest outside the principal’s office. They did not present alternatives. They did not give the principal time to review their position before forcing him to address them. I disagreed with the way the students handled their protest. To be effective, they needed to articulate their thoughts amongst themselves first, and then present and give him time to respond. Most importantly, they needed to present not only with grievances but also with solutions. When I voiced my disapproval, my peers became angry. They called me names and said I was “pro assault.” They did not listen to my argument, I was not disagreeing with their ideas, but with their process of communicating."


School: Achievement First Amistad High School

Home Country: United States

"Growing up in this city where people of color are marginalized and disenfranchised, I knew that I had to get involved. Since seventh grade, I participated in local voter turnout initiatives and canvassed for political candidates. Last summer, I became the campaign manager for a local city council campaign. I was excited to have more of a hands-on role in shaping my city. The issues that are important to me—education, social justice, racial equity—were being ignored by those in power. For me, civic engagement is not a choice. My city’s education system has been flat-funded for the past forty years. The people that are in office do not value the lives of students like me. I had to get involved to fight for future generations and help them build successful lives filled with opportunity. In whatever community I find myself in, I will strive to fight for those without a voice and advocate for children."


School: International School Frankfurt

Home Country: Germany, United States

"I grew up in a family that upheld Christian values. I could not really grasp the importance of understanding and accepting other people’s cultures and their individual beliefs. What truly represented a shift in my life was when I entered an International School. I was surprised at first, seeing all these other children from around the globe represent their cultures and views. I had never really been surrounded by such diverse and unique individuals. Each person upheld their own values, worshipped their own religions and represented their own cultures, and we all still learned to accept each other. I have formed strong bonds with people exemplifying beliefs and cultures which are so unlike the ones I learned. Meeting people from all these different cultures really helped me develop an open mind and impacted my eagerness to learn more about other countries, their people and culture."


School: Cypress Bay High School

Home Country: Japan

"In the spring of 2020, the world changed. Teachers told us to just stay home, be patient and work together through this difficult situation. My younger brother struggled. He was bored and missed being with his friends. I decided to create a club and organize events for students. My counselor said to focus on the SAT. Nevertheless, I heard my brother’s friends were also bored and lacking activities. I decided to do whatever I could to help them. I organized H.F.S.D. (Have Fun Social Distancing) and some events following CDC guidelines and park rules, including an online fishing course, flying kites at the park, a drive-through and a Valentine’s gift exchange. Most people see social distancing and other safety guidelines as burdens, however, I am spinning them as very positive experiences. This year has been frustrating, but positive attitudes can have a greater impact than people think."


School: Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa

Home Country: Kenya

"Being presented with the question “Is it only knowledge produced with great difficulty that we truly value?” really promoted me to think critically. I remember spending two days trying to figure out if this was really true and it indeed altered and falsified my limited knowledge. I began to think about what knowledge I truly value and if so, does what I value count as knowledge. I chose to look at this statement based on both arts and sciences and therefore compared the knowledge and their values in the respective categories. It was definitely challenging, and I have arrived at the conclusion that knowledge can gain or lose value over time and value is quite personalized."


School: King's Academy

Home Country: Jordan

"Taekwondo has been in my life for more than 10 years. It has shaped who I have become, and how I act and think. I trained up to three hours every day. With every practice, I hoped to come closer to my dream: the Jordanian National Team. One tournament was the deciding factor; only gold medalists join the team. The day finally came, but I only managed to get a silver medal. How could all my pain and effort in practice go to nothing? I continued training hard every day, yet that was still not enough. I had a series of unsuccessful trials. This instilled a sense of hopelessness in me. I wanted to quit. But my parents always supported and encouraged me to continue training and giving every training my all. I went by my Mom’s saying, “do your best and let God do the rest.” I like her saying because through it I can see that whatever is best for me will happen, as long as I do my part of the job."


School: Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted

Home Country: Vietnam

"My relationship with my best friend was fractured over tablecloths. We were hosting the Hanoi Model United Nations conference. The entire Vietnamese Model UN Community was watching us. Our conference needed to be perfect. As a leader, I always listen to my team’s ideas, however, I tend to micromanage the details. My friend is more of a pragmatist. One of our disputes was whether we should have tablecloths. Our talks turned into arguments, as I wanted to win that argument more than achieving efficiency. After the event, my teammates depended on me to make all the decisions. I felt like a dictator whom they feared. I realized what makes a conference perfect is its impact on the attendees. I learned to focus on the bigger picture rather than small details, and that I need to empathize with others’ opinions if I truly seek to fully empower them. When you win an argument, you’re not really winning anything, especially not winning others over."


School: Colegio Los Nogales

Home Country: Colombia

"Throughout the pandemic, I have attended classes virtually while most Colombian students have not been able to continue their education given the lack of permanent access to electronic devices. While doing research for an essay arguing in favor of reopening schools, I realized the difficult situation that many students in my country were going through. Some classmates and I created a foundation called “2torias.’’ It cares for students that come from violent homes, many of them orphans. These students were lagging behind in their schoolwork given their lack of resources. 2torias collected electronic devices. We also recruited classmates to tutor students in English, Math, Spanish, Technology and Sustainability. I have been Coordinator of the English Department, as well as a tutor. By teaching to less privileged students I have been able to better grasp the realities in my country."


School: The American School in Japan

Home Countries: Japan, United States

"In 2018, Tokyo Medical University made headlines when it admitted that the school had been manipulating entrance exam results for years to keep female students out. Further investigations revealed other medical schools had been engaged in similar discriminatory practices. Growing up in a family that deeply values gender equality, I was shocked to learn such blatant gender discrimination was routinely and systematically practiced at so many schools. This experience made me question my assumptions about gender equality. To gain a better understanding, I joined S.A.G.E. (Students Advocating for Gender Equality). Through S.A.G.E., I have been involved in several programs and events such as HeForShe held by the United Nations. Each one of these activities may be small, but I hope my actions contribute to the promotion of better awareness of gender issues within Japan."

Maxwell "Max"

School: Wellesley High School

Home Country: United States

"All my life, the daily American news coverage instills fear and uncertainty about people with Middle Eastern origins. My father worked in the Middle East with a forward-thinking client whose senior executive is a woman. While my father worked with this woman, a strong friendship grew and culminated in meeting her. Before our meeting, I was nervous, I had no idea what I could and couldn’t say. Within seconds of our meeting, my concerns evaporated. Her kind and generous spirit put me at ease, and I remember talking to her about everything from basketball to biology. She became a fantastic source of insight and learning that continues to this day. This firsthand experience was transformative in shaping my opinions of the Middle East. I now listen to the evening news with a broader knowledge of Middle Eastern events and the people from this region."


School: Orchlon International School

Home Country: Mongolia

"To take A level exams in the fall session, our class had been working tirelessly to cover all the content. When the administration decided to restrain us from taking exams in the fall, however, all our hard work seemed to disappear into thin air. I immediately wrote a 3-page long request, outlining the reasons why I was opposing the new change to the test taking policy. My face shone with happiness when I heard the administration withdrew its decision a few days after I sent the letter. Even though many factors beyond my mere letter could have affected that decision, I stood up for something that mattered to me. I felt impressed at myself for having the courage to voice my opinion. I felt the power and confidence to bring changes. I sometimes doubt my ability to have influence at all. But whenever I feel like my impact will be insignificant compared to the scale of the problem, I think of that letter."

Rafiullah "Rafi"

School: Eton College

Home Country: Afghanistan

"I was born in a Muslim majority country and grew up in a Muslim family. Before I moved to the UK with my family, I wasn’t really exposed to beliefs that were contrary to mine. When I started school in the UK, I began to learn more about other cultures and other people’s beliefs. My Religious Studies class was a really good opportunity for me to explore other religious and moral beliefs. I was in a class with people from different religious backgrounds and I learned about other religions. This was a great chance for me challenge and question my religious beliefs. My fellow students were also eager to know more about my beliefs. So, their questions provoked me to rethink my beliefs for the first time. During this time, I realized that I had beliefs about which I hadn’t thought before. As a result, I am more open to contrary beliefs and I welcome other people’s criticisms of my beliefs."


School: United World College ISAK

Home Countries: the Netherlands, Singapore

"When I applied for UWC ISAK Japan many people questioned if I was making the right decision, including myself. I wondered if leaving my family at such a young age was the best and right decision for me. I knew that I was comfortable, but when given the opportunity for something totally different, something I had never experienced before, I had to at least give it a try. It was time to try something new and push myself out of my comfort zone. I had to convince my parents why it was a good idea to apply for this school and, after some talking, they saw my point of view and understood why I wanted to try something new. My parents understood that attending a boarding school would allow me to grow and show how independent and responsible I am. And they were right, by taking this risk, I have managed to embark on new experiences that have shaped me to become who I am today."

Samantha "Sammie"

School: Phillips Academy Andover

Home Country: United States

"I grew up with the belief that every child in the United States has access to education that effectively teaches the basics. Last summer I had the opportunity to volunteer at a summer school program. This opened my eyes to the reality that many children are not at grade level in several subjects. There may be many reasons why a student was not at grade level, but the lack of resources at the local public schools played a large role. I discovered that Colorado is ranked 37th on a list of public school spending per student by state. This prompted me to tutor a seventh grader in math to prepare for a test necessary for a scholarship application. Over the course of a month, I helped him successfully prepare for the test and learn topics he had not covered in school. This experience made me realize that I can effectively play a direct role in helping those who have not had the educational advantages that I have had."


School: Phillips Exeter Academy

Home Country: United States

"Education allows you opportunities to unlock your full potential and gives you the freedom to pursue your passions. That’s why it’s vital that public school education be equal and nurturing for every student. Alongside my previous gifted program teacher, we spoke at congressmen’s offices to push for new legislation. Since all public school teachers are required to take two special education teacher trainings, one should be for the opposite end of the spectrum - gifted students. All students have the right to equal educational opportunities, not just equal services. Most students go to public schools, and we all deserve to make progress in our learning. Due to my strong belief in this, and my own experiences in class, I chose to challenge the state education system, lobbying local legislators to require schools to identify gifted students and provide more equitable services."


School: Phillips Exeter Academy

Home Country: United States

"This fall, I interviewed the first Black woman who graduated from my school. She mentioned there were more Black students in her grade compared to her younger cousin’s, even though her cousin attended 11 years after. I didn’t realize just how stagnant the numbers had been and currently are. I’ve witnessed multiple student-led protests calling for the administration to acknowledge racial injustice. While originally impressed by my school’s response to the Black Lives Matter protests—we hosted weekly anti-racist workshops—I began questioning their impact as students who needed to learn the most didn’t attend. I also question the idea of private schools as they epitomize the US’s educational, socioeconomic and racial inequalities. After the Atlanta shootings which killed 6 Asian women, I helped organize a school-wide vigil. If I can help even one student feel validated, the work is invaluable."


School: King School

Home Country: United States

"When I was in middle school, I did not believe that I was a strong student. I had anxiety when I would face tests. I worried that I would always struggle. I didn’t understand the value of school. When I got to high school, it dawned on me that college was only four years away and that there was a lot to learn. I began to understand how much hard work would be required to get into an academically strong college. School had been my adversary, now it was an opportunity to strengthen my mind. I was incredibly fortunate in my freshman year to have inspiring teachers who made me realize I had great talent in writing, public speaking and foreign language. I started to see myself as a diligent student embracing what I was learning rather than seeing it as a chore. My excitement about learning continues as I have yet another year of fantastic teachers who are guiding me as I develop further skills to excel as a student."


School: The Chapin School

Home Countries: Japan, United States

"A baby is not born with opinions, those opinions and beliefs are formed as one lives through life, influenced by the world around them. When learning about the horrific actions of the Belgians following the establishment of the Congo Free State in 1885, the conversation moved towards whether people are born evil. We were shown a text explaining the idea that all people are corrupt, and that the natural order is for humans to be bad and do harm. Though convincing, I believe that what society considers a “bad person” means being incapable of redemption; when one feels no guilt and sees no wrong in a committed crime. The Belgians believed that the torture they inflicted was for the greater good, because the idea that the West was superior to the rest of the world had been instilled in them. Those beliefs are not ones that someone is born with, they are rooted in what is picked up from society during childhood. People cannot be born good or bad, one must first acquire certain opinions and views of the world."


School: African Leadership Academy

Home Country: Morocco

"At the African Leadership Academy, one of the traditions is an initiation called “the fire ceremony.” All first-year students receive an email about an urgent Dean talk in an auditorium. The lights go off and dozens of people wearing black with fire sticks in hand order the first-year students to hum and walk in a circle for half an hour. Some students feel humiliated, others cry and others are proud of joining the ALA community officially. No one talks about what happened, but every first-year says the same thing: “I cannot wait until next year to do the same thing to the incoming first-year students.” I started reflecting on what happened. Is the only way of initiating new students making them feel bad or uncomfortable? A request was raised by a faculty member to know if it should continue or should be stopped but few students reacted. I concluded that the large number of students willing to continue this tradition want to practice what has been practiced on them, rather than conserving this tradition as they say."


School: African Leadership Academy

Home Countries: Tunisia

"Over 7000 km separates South Africa from Tunisia, my home country. My first term in the African Leadership Academy, I was thrilled by how far I was from home. I was on a new journey full of opportunity. Second term, the distance frightened me. That distance now represented my inability to do anything if something happened back home. Death can strike anyone at any moment. Faced with this reality, I struggled to find a reason for what I was doing. I thought I would have been better off if I just enjoyed my family and friends to the fullest instead. The belief that I was doing this to grow was not enough, I needed a real purpose in life. When I looked within I found my answer. There is no real purpose for anything I do unless I define it myself. Why am I leaving my comfort 7000 km from where I am? I still do not know, which is fine, because I no longer have to look behind to find an answer. I can create it while moving forward and of course, enjoying life."


School: United World College ISAK

Home Country: Japan

"For my film assignment, I formed a team with a student from Estonia. We needed a clear story idea and to develop the characters. Though we tried to compromise by brainstorming and listing our needs, it took 3-4 hours to reach one idea with many concessions. It was a stressful and tiring process, and one thought came up in my mind: “Isn’t it important to learn when to give up using diversity as well as learning how to use diversity effectively?” I suggested that it might be better for us to work separately and each of us produce what we want. He prioritized diversity more than the quality of product and believed discussion could solve all problems between us. I valued the quality as well as my time and health. However, I decided to continue working together. I might not be able to reach a solution of how to use diversity, but I keep questioning. Either way, I think this experience will help me grow and perhaps that is how using diversity becomes a strength."


School: Junior High School at Otsuka, University of Tsukuba

Home Country: Japan

"In late February, my school was closed due to the coronavirus. My best friends stayed in touch on the phone. When we became anxious, we supported each other. After we returned to school in June, an envelope was distributed to each student. I was shocked at the message inside. One of my best friend’s parents passed away because of cancer. She passed away in early March, when we were supposedly having fun together. I had never thought that the relatives of a close friend would disappear. I was ashamed to take it for granted that I would always be with my family and friends. I cried because I felt miserable for myself. When we graduated from our school, she sent us a message. “I’m sorry I couldn’t say anything about my mother. But it was fun with you, and I enjoyed school.” I want to remember her laughter and continue to support her. I want to cherish each day, be grateful to live and support people on critical occasions."


School: Fountain Valley School of Colorado

Home Countries: Japan

"When I left Japan and went to El Salvador, watching Salvadoran people living happier than Japanese people, I started to question my own perspective on families. In Japan, family was not something to be considered as important as things such as school and work. Parents prioritize their work to earn money. Children sacrifice most of their time studying. There is no unity in the house and each lives in their own world to do what is expected from society. In El Salvador, family was the most important thing in everyone’s life. If anything happened to a family member, good or bad, it would be the priority. Leaving a job or school to attend family events was accepted by everyone. While I knew that not all Salvadoran families were united with strong bonds of love, it still was enough to make me realize how common beliefs aren’t perfect. Now I know that there are infinite ways to improve our fixed ideas by understanding not only the negative aspects but also the positive aspects of different cultures and societies."


Thank you for your continued support. We are so excited to share the journeys of our community's newest global citizens with you!

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