Youth Leadership: Signs of Hope in a Time of Crisis

Like everyone, we at OneWorld Now have spent the last few weeks adjusting to our new reality. While there have certainly been challenges and frustrations, we have also seen signs of hope as our students, teachers, and staff have rallied to support each other and ensure that we can continue developing leadership in our youth, even during times of social distancing.

Most importantly, much of our programming has continued uninterrupted. At a time when Seattle Public Schools has been completely shut down, we immediately transitioned our language classes online, using the Zoom platform.

Chinese class instruction over Zoom

Students and parents have told us how grateful they are that classes are ongoing, which is helping to provide much-needed structure to the day, while also ensuring continued academic growth and social connection with classmates. It has also been helping to relieve student anxiety: as one student told us, “It’s important that OWN classes continue, since we students need to continue earning credits and not jeopardize our college dreams.”

Our leadership workshops have also made a successful transition online, thanks to extraordinary efforts from our Pod Leaders (second-year students who serve as peer mentors to first-year students in the program). The Pod Leaders worked together to develop a workshop examining the intersections of the coronavirus and social issues, with special emphasis on the ways in which societal crises can lead to scapegoating and discrimination.

Zoom call of Leadership Podleaders

When we asked one of our Pod Leaders why it felt important to continue leadership workshops now, she said, “The current situation shows the importance of our leadership workshops, since they allow students to learn the facts about what is happening, while also equipping us to counter the spread of misinformation and xenophobia.”

Indeed, while the “what” of our programs might be shifting to an online format, the “why” has never been more important. This pandemic has shown unequivocally how interconnected our world is, and our response over the coming months and years will determine the kind of world we build in response to this challenge. When we look at our students, I feel confident that we will build a world that is compassionate, empathetic, and mutually supportive.

As an organization, we are resilient, but we are still facing challenges. We have made the hard decision to cancel all of our study abroad programs this year, which is a major disappointment for our students who have been working hard to prepare for these life-changing experiences. We have also cancelled both of our April fundraising events (our International Trivia night and our private dinner at Cook Weaver), which makes it significantly harder to raise money to ensure our programs continue uninterrupted.

To support our students in their ongoing leadership development and build the kind of world we long to see, I invite you to make a gift today.

Finally, if you have ideas on how OWN can continue serving students during these challenging times, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We would love to set up a time for a phone call or Zoom chat.

I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy.


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