I recently agreed to serve as the Chairman of the Board of a remarkable organization called Global Citizen Year. My daughter spent most of last year as a Global Citizen Year Fellow in Ecuador. During the course of that year, I have come to appreciate the mission of this organization as well as its effectiveness in engaging young leaders in a meaningful way as they embark upon their post high school journey.
This is a group doing what I consider to be very important work.
Global Citizen Year runs a leadership development program for young people at a very important inflection point in their lives. The program enables kids to hit "pause" after they finish the rush of high school. They learn about the world and development while finding ways to do meaningful work in local communities and building deep friendships with a remarkable group of young leaders. I believe this corps of leaders will have a significant impact in our world in the coming decades. Think City Year meets Peace Corps for high school graduates.
Global Citizen Year has a highly selective admission process and a deep commitment to ensuring all qualified candidates can participate, regardless of background or financial resources. This isn't designed to be a vacation for well-to-do kids who can afford it, but rather a serious commitment to living with a family and engaging in a local community in Ecuador, Brazil or Senegal. Global Citizen Year makes a significant investment in these young adults through training across multiple disciplines (language, sociology, politics, economics, communication, and many others) before, during and after their eight months in country.
Before there were programs for such things, both my wife and I created our own "bridge years" and it helped us to get much more out of our college educations than we might have otherwise. Upon return from abroad we were more focused, with clearer questions. Current research backs this up, showing that gap year participation positively predicts academic motivation and performance and that this effect is significant over and above demographic factors.
Global Citizen Year has created a robust process, curriculum, and strategy that enables this bridge year experience to happen with much more intention, commitment and impact than the self-designed approach I took when I was 18. Increasingly colleges are encouraging students to take a year off before starting, as they know this will increase the odds of their success on campus and in their careers.
The Global Citizen Year team envisions a world in which this bridge year becomes a common expectation and opportunity—transforming education, and unleashing the potential of our next generation as social innovators and global citizens. As such they are committed to reshaping American education so that future generations of young leaders benefit from a year deeply immersed in a foreign culture. To shift expectations and behaviors that are strongly ingrained in our educational culture, the organization is partnering with colleges and raising awareness through the media and among policymakers.
I am enamored of this work because we need better leaders. I believe that twenty years from now, when these students are shaping our policies, business practices and commitments globally, there might be a community of several thousand leaders who have come through this program. With first hand experience and a deeper sense of what it means to be part of a global community, they will challenge one another and ask the hard questions as they navigate the role the United States plays in the world.
I recently had a chance to speak with all the returning students during their "re-entry" training in California, and can tell you I was incredibly impressed by these Fellows' perspectives, resiliency, and wide-eyed realism. Their experiences, their hunger, their commitment gave me hope. It was inspiring.
But Global Citizen Year is just getting started. We currently send 100 students a year abroad. We hope to increase that number significantly in the next few years, as well as add new countries to our program. We are actively looking for creative ways to continue to fund our expansion and operations, to recruit the team needed to deliver on this vision, and to find supporters and advisors willing to help make it happen. It is with this in mind that I am writing this today. I'd love to engage with you in a conversation about the work of this organization, the importance of its mission, and any role you think you might be able to play to help us.
Do yourself a favor and watch this 2 minute video by a returning fellow. And if you are inspired, make a donation to our scholarship fund so we can send another remarkable group of Fellows abroad.