High school students from Armenia, Turkey and across New England are actively engaged in online discussions about issues ranging from leadership and social entrepreneurship to personal hopes for the future, through a new program implemented by the US and Armenian offices of PH International and ARI Movement in Turkey. The Youth LAB (Leaders Across Borders) program, funded by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, is designed to cultivate leadership, foster cross-cultural dialogue, and provide youth with the skills to effect change in their communities.
In February 2011, 48 students from throughout Turkey and Armenia, as well as 24 students from Vermont and Massachusetts, were selected for participation in Youth LAB through a competitive application process that assessed their leadership abilities, community service experience, and respect for cultural diversity. Students are now participating in online conversations about civic engagement and leadership, as well as using Facebook and Skype to develop friendships with their peers. As one American participant noted, “A lot of beliefs that people have about other cultures are really warped and not true. Youth LAB is important because it gives teens the chance to learn about and appreciate different cultures.”
Among a number of program goals, Youth LAB seeks to encourage positive dialogue between citizens on both sides of a closed border between Turkey and Armenia. The program represents a growing openness for younger generations to come together to find solutions to problems that impact the global community.
In July 2011, all 72 students will travel to Waitsfield, Vermont, for an intensive two-week leadership camp, hosted at Sugarbush Resort. Students will meet again in Turkey and Armenia for a reciprocal visit in December 2011.