PH International

Armenian, Turkish and American Teens Gain Leadership Skills During Vermont Summer Camp

USA | Youth LAB - Leadership Across Borders | 5 Aug 2011

High school students from Armenia, Turkey and across New England have recently concluded an intensive three-week summer program at Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vermont. Throughout July, students in the Youth LAB program were engaged in discussions and trainings on leadership, communication and activism. Importantly, students also designed civic action projects to implement in their home communities following the camp. Goals of the projects, which students developed in collaboration with their peers from other countries and regions, emphasized environmental stewardship, outreach to underserved populations, access to educational resources, health and wellness, and a range of issues that plague communities around the globe. “Since the program began in February, all the teens have been working together online, but you never know how the dynamic will change once the kids meet face to face, especially because of the countries involved” noted Renee Berrian, Program Director. 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. “What we discovered when they got together, however, is just how open this generation is to focusing on how they can make their world a better place to live,” Berrian said. One of the American students in the program from Montpelier, Vermont, echoed Berrian’s sentiments. “This program has given me such a renewed faith in my friends’ ability to create a future that they want – one without the historical conflict that has slowed progress in the past,” says Aly Johnson-Kurts. Students from Turkey and Armenia were especially impressed during their time in the U.S. by the spirit of community and activism they encountered in Vermont. Students learned valuable advice for taking that social consciousness back home, in meetings at the Winooski Teen Center and with representatives from the Vermont Workers Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Vermont House of Representatives. An Armenian youth shared his enthusiasm by saying that “the program got me to a place where I really feel educated, empowered and inspired to make a difference. I’m excited to get started!” Another Turkish student beamed, "My community really needs me. I can't wait to show my neighbors how important youth are." In November 2011, all 72 students will meet again in Turkey and Armenia for a reciprocal visit. Youth LAB is implemented by the U.S. and Armenian offices of PH International and ARI Movement in Turkey, with funding from the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. More information is online at