Twenty-Nine Flavors, by Sari ’16
A version of this article was originally published in The Rexonian. To read the original version visit https://rexonian.com/2016/09/27/gcys-summer-summit/
I walked into the basement of Irving House, Cambridge, Mass., where twenty-three scholars were gathered around a circular table. The room was tight and the chairs were full, but that did not stop the Scholars from magically shuffling and sucking me into the circle. Different ethnicities from every corner of the world were in the room. The basement was a place where we gathered for morning meetings, sang, did homework, and bonded together as a group.
The 16 by 16-foot room covered thousands of miles as each one of us shared their story.
Upon walking into the Irving house earlier that morning, I had been welcomed into the Global Citizens Youth Summit with hugs, water, energy bars, and a whiteboard which asked “How do you feel?” I wrote, “Let’s do it.”
GCYS brings high school students from around the world for a nine-day summit culminating in a “Glocal” Service Project encouraging the students to think global and act local. The summit was more than our basement activities. Lectures and Harkness discussions spread over the nine days covered subjects ranging from education to psychology. Speakers who graced our lecture series included Ben Zander, director of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the author of The Art of Possibility, Lisa MacFarlane, the current principle of Philips Exeter academy, and Jack Meyer, who is famously known for quadrupling Harvard’s endowment in 15 years.
My favorite was Ms. MacFarlane’s talk, who presented an educational philosophy regarding love of learning and creativity through using a children’s story, The Cat In The Hat. Her talk was memorable and important in a time where students are only focused on the measurement of their learning rather than its deepness.
The Summit did an excellent job of connecting the Scholars together. Our white-polo shirts broke any socioeconomic differences. Our daily lunch on a budget pushed us to explore every possible restaurant within our area—the 12 dollar lunches really gave us an idea of what it’s like to be a broke student!
Undivided, we would walk to and from lectures and activities in one large group consisting of teachers, teacher’s assistants, and Scholars. During our many walks, each person spoke to at least six people. We were a group of diverse students all united by our polos, laughter and energy—a sight to behold!
The last four days of the Summit, we worked on our Glocal Service Projects, which mirrored our learning from the lectures and environment. The projects were daring, full of energy, empathy and creativity. The projects were split into three categories: Energy, Education and Equity. Every group consisted of four scholars and an adviser (My group contained scholars from Mongolia, India, China and Syria, as well as an American adviser). Our focus was education, and just like that, four teenagers sat down to tackle different issues from around the world.
My project was an expansion on a nonprofit I established in Jordan with two of my friends called Fikra 3al Mashi (The walking idea in English). We want to provide Syrian refugees with technological tools to educate themselves. To make it more sustainable I collaborated with the other scholars, and we drew together a plan to establish computer labs that can be used by refugees to educate themselves. Other projects in my group included adding critical thinking to the Mongolian curriculum, writing a book about veteran narratives, and establishing an online tool to help people with mental illness.
As a Syrian, a kidnap victim, and a refugee who was denied education for three years (I’m on schedule to graduate at 21), I never thought I would have the chance to attend such a Summit. However, as Ben Zander said, “we live in a world of possibilities” and attending the Global Citizens Youth Summit was a possibility I will never forget. It was a place where I entered as a foreigner and left as a family member. It was a place where I learned that not all republicans are conservative, especially not my roommate with whom I remain in regular contact.
Global citizenship means global empathy. Our experiences at the summit, the lectures, the Harkness discussions, the laughter, all awoke a sense of purpose in us and taught us that, like our polo shirts, our problems may come in different sizes but we are united in our zeal to tackle them.
Sari is an Ambassador ’16 advancing educational outcomes for Syrian refugees with technology. To learn more about Sari’s project visit http://fikra3almashi.org/.