Michael Schoenleber (United States, Li Po Chun College 06-08)
An international team of students from Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong and Princeton University have come together with the help of UWC-USA to plan the first ever conference between American and Iraqi youth. The conference will take place this summer at King’s Academy boarding school just outside of Amman, Jordan. Sixteen American and sixteen Iraqi 16-19 year olds from diverse backgrounds within each nation will participate in the conference from July 14 to 25. The conference is designed to incorporate three phases: learning about one another’s cultures, histories, and identities; identifying problems in Iraq and drafting a statement of intent to be distributed for international consideration; and developing and implementing educational and recreational youth-run and youth-oriented development projects within Iraq.
Several guest speakers with a background in Iraqi affairs and conflict management will attend the conference, including Dr. John Agresto, former Senior Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education; Sheikh Bukhari, a member of the Interfaith Dialogue to bring peace to the Holy Land; and Dr. Mounzer Fatfat, former Senior Advisor to the Iraqi Minister of Youth and Sports. Dr. Selena Sermeno from the Bartos Institute for Constructive Engagement of Conflict will be present to work with the student facilitators and coordinate conference events.
Following the conference, participants and facilitators will continue to raise support for and implement youth-oriented development projects in Iraq, hopefully under the soon-to-be-approved NGO, Youth Initiative for Progress. One program, however, has already been started by the team of facilitators, the Campus Connection Program. With support from the above mentioned guest speakers, in addition to Barham Salih, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, and Zalmay Khalilzad, US Ambassador to the United Nations, the conference coordinators will link American universities and high schools with Iraqi schools of all levels. Through such a partnership, American institutions can help provide for the needs of the Iraq schools, improving the educational conditions by providing computers, lab equipment, school supplies, etc. and students from both schools can benefit from cultural exchange.
Chief Conference Coordinator and Founder, Michael Schoenleber, and Conference Coordinators Astrid Stuth and Cale Salih, will travel to Northern Iraq following the conference to begin establishing connections with schools in Iraq and work out logistical problems with Deputy Prime Minister Salih and Dr. Agresto. The team estimates original start up costs for the program to be 20,000 USD and are currently looking for financial supporters to reach this goal. Their goal is to connect a minimum of 10 Iraqi schools with 10 American schools, each of which should bring 25,000 USD of support to their counterpart school by the end of the fall 2008 academic year. However, having heard back already from 12 interested American schools, the team will continue to incorporate as many schools into the program as possible, while working with the conference participants on additional projects for the youth of Iraq and improved understanding between the two nations.
– United World College Student Magazine-