When we think about the next generation and their drive to change the world, it is youth programs like the Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program that inspire us and give us hope.
In July, Global Ties KC got the honor to welcome again a cohort on the Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program! This group consisted of 14 students and 4 adult mentors from Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, and Cameroon who are handpicked by the U.S. Department of State to visit the U.S. on a fully sponsored program. PAYLP is a U.S. Department of State program implemented by Meridian International Center and local host cities around the country. Each year, this dynamic youth leadership program engages 150 high school students and adult mentors from over 38 countries in Africa for a three week U.S.-based cultural exchange and civic engagement training program. PAYLP brings together anglophone and francophone high school students and adult mentors for practical leadership and technical skills training centered around an action-planning curriculum & capstone. During their time in the U.S. the full group visited Atlanta before splitting into smaller groups to head to Kansas City, Arkansas, and Vermont to be with host families.
Their time in our local community was full of learning, discovery, and fun! Participants got to go to an American Baseball game, visit historic sites such as the Brown v Board of Education, volunteer with organizations like Synergy Services: Youth Resiliency center, learn from Kansas Citians through workshops on public speaking, youth trauma response, visit the University of Missouri- Kansas City, and meet local non-profits like New Roots for Refugees and WeCode KC. While here they also worked on their community action projects around the themes of agriculture, youth empowerment through tech, recycling, and illiteracy. They hope to implement these projects upon return to their home countries.
“WeCode KC was the most valuable meeting to me. I finally saw with my own eyes what I had been thinking about for a while. Children in the US are introduced to technology in their early ages; they are exposed to technology and basic computer skills at a very young age. I am one of very few people in Burundi who know how to code and program and I just have very basic skills. I just know I have to do something about it in my country if we ever want to be on the same page as other developed countries.” – Queren, Burundian student participant
“ I learned how a leader must make decisions, how they can behave and live in a social environment, frankly I learned a lot of lessons during this program that will help me become a humble leader to serve my community.” – Berenice, Central African Republic student participant
Though these participants spoke French, the beauty and power of exchange was evident with how well they bonded with host families and felt connected beyond the language divide.
Hortance, one of the Cameroonian students said, “Even though I cannot understand my host family, I have loved how welcoming and kind she has been. I had her try one of Cameroon’s best traditional dishes, and in return she told me about her American culture. There’s so much to say that I can’t mention everything but she’s the best!”
“Our host family is a wonderful family! At first thinking about not being in another home scared me but afterwards I felt at home and we had a lot of fun! The dad was really funny despite the fact that I don’t understand good English, he did his best to make me understand. For a better understanding the mother even learned to speak French. It was so cool I appreciated it a lot and I will miss them!”
– Maiva, Central African Republic student
The participants left with full hearts and ideas to impact their communities. In turn, they have impacted our local community, inspiring us to create collective change and investing in KC. A huge thank you to the participants for their constant engagement and Meridian International Center, and U.S. Department of State for their partnership as we implemented the Pan-African Youth Leadership Program for the fifth year! We are looking forward to continuing to have a hand in equipping the next generation of global leaders.