A Pakistan team’s solution to their community issue – a cultural festival.

As communities around the world learn how to engage digitally, Kansas City is joining the movement and staying connected. During the spring of 2020, two Kansas City area high schools had the opportunity to take part in a virtual exchange program with Pakistan. The exchange centered around how students can develop leadership skills, then use those skills to take action about important issues in their community. Programs like these are especially pertinent to today’s times, and it demonstrated the tremendous power of virtual communication while also contributing to the cultural awareness of our upcoming leaders..

PAK-USA ran from February-May of 2020, and was arranged by Global Ties U.S. and community members throughout the United States, including Global Ties KC. The PAK-USA Virtual Classroom Exchange connected students from these two countries, with the ultimate objective of helping them develop leadership skills and learn a bit about one another’s culture. The program connected approximately 160 students from multiple cities in the United States and in Pakistan. On the U.S. side, participating schools are in Washington, DC; Cincinnati, OH; Kansas City, MO; and Seattle, WA. In Pakistan, participating schools are based in Lahore and Karachi.

To facilitate programming from the KC-side, Global Ties KC partnered with Summit Technology Academy and Kingsville High School. Participating students were able to explore themes of conflict resolution, cultural awareness, leadership development, and even learn about their own communities. This was all in pursuit of preparing them for their final project.

At the conclusion of the program, student participants created a video in which they highlighted strategies for solving issues in their own communities. It is a unique exercise in developing community action plans that are feasible and impactful. The topics they aimed to solve were deep and meaningful – from police brutality in the United States to gender equality in Pakistan. What an amazing accomplishment for these future leaders to have highlighted successes of their chosen movement while also realistically analyzing challenges that must be overcome for real change to be seen. The development of such critical thinking skills are imperative for future leaders, but an opportunity that are not often afforded.

The program demonstrated the importance of connecting youth around the world, through whatever means possible. Air travel and 2-week breaks are not a privilege afforded to many people, especially those who need it the most, but if there is anything the COVID-19 era has shown us, it is that there are ample replacements that still provide intense value. It is a fact that diplomacy and international engagement will indeed look different in the coming years, with technology playing the main role in this transition, but that does not mean we must limit ourselves. Humans are ingenuitive, resilient, and inherently social – so let’s move forward the best way we know how and keep the global learning going.

You can watch the videos yourself! Find the closing film festival here.