Introducing the Chris Stevens Youth Network

The late U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, at right, talks to boys in Tripoli, Libya. / AP

Since 1998, iEARN has been privileged to work with the US State Department to develop programs and projects to foster strong relations between the West and the Islamic world. Our efforts have focused on direct student and teacher interaction to build trust, mutual understanding, and a commitment to shared goals. Highlights include: the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), and the Global Connections and Exchange (GCE) Program.

This year, iEARN is privileged once again to work with the State Department to help launch a new initiative, the Chris Stevens Youth Network, introduced by Senator John Kerry on December 20:

So there are costs, but that’s no reason to retrench from the world and it is I think a reason to honor the memory of Ambassador Stevens and the others who were deeply committed to a strong American role in the world, that’s why he was out there.

So in the end colleagues, we are all Americans first. We can’t lose sight of that fact, particularly in the face of this tragedy. We’re very pleased that Secretary Burns and Secretary Nides have come here today. Secretary Burns recently established the Christopher Stevens Youth Network to honor Chris’ memory by building bridges of understanding and compassion between American youth and their Middle Eastern peers. We look forward to continuing that work with them.

stevens_amb_candlelight_vigil_ny_500

2012 File Photo/The Associated Press
Dilan Samo, 13, holds a picture of Stevens during a candlelight vigil outside the Libyan mission to the United Nations in New York, September 13, 2012.

The Christopher Stevens Youth Network is an Exchange 2.0 effort that will offer complementary physical and virtual exchanges anchored by iEARN’s Global Connections 2.0 program. iEARN will support approximately 10,000 students and 400 educators in 20 countries to interact and learn with each other through online project-based learning focused on eight thematic units: conflict resolution and peace education, the environment, civic education, social entrepreneurship, empowering girls and young women, food security, health, and literacy and education.

iEARN will select educators from each country to attend a master trainer workshop at the 2013 iEARN Annual Conference in Doha, Qatar, where they will share, both face-to-face and virtually, project objectives and outcomes with thousands of peers from around the world.

Like YES, NSLI-Y, and GCE, the Christopher Stevens Youth Network will leverage new educational technologies, social media and partnerships with an increasing number of schools and organizations connecting classrooms worldwide. Mobile learning, open data, cloud computing, MOOCs, social entrepreneurship, and other tools and resources are evolving and changing teaching and learning and classroom-powered public diplomacy at a remarkable pace. Like their YES, NSLI-Y, and GCE peers, Christopher Stevens Youth Network participants will seek ways to make a positive difference in their communities, with new cross-cultural appreciation and skills. The Christopher Stevens Youth Network will advance our national security, enhance our education system, and enable our country to move closer to the goal that EVERY student in the U.S. have an international experience to gain critical skills and knowledge.

For many Americans, “Benghazi” is associated with election politics, Muslim rage, and the tentative relationships between people in the US and people in predominately Muslim countries. We hope, however, this tragic Libyan city becomes a catalyst for greater investment in programs that help young people to build the trust, respect, and empathy needed to take action with peers and contribute to the welfare of planet and its people. We invite US educators and their students to join us for the launch of the Christopher Stevens Youth Network and to help us promote peace and conflict resolution through exchange and meaningful collaboration.

Kids in Lajan Village, Kurdistan, Iraq, hold a tablet for the first time as participants of Touchable Earth, the first digital world book for kids where kids in each place explain all the facts about it. The Chris Stevens Youth Network will support iEARN efforts like this in Kurdistan.

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