This May, SACIV was thrilled to host a delegation from Kazakhstan. From May 25th – May 30th, SACIV hosted three Kazakhstani delegates as they engaged with leaders in San Antonio’s civil society as part of the IVLP initiative “American Youth: Inspiring Leadership & Civic Participation.”
Through appointments across the city, these delegates learned about education, voter participation, community service, social justice, and professional development in the San Antonio area by talking with community leaders at places like MOVE San Antonio, Headstart, VentureLab, the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership, and Claude and ZerNona Black Foundation.
The State Department outlined several key goals of this project for the delegation. The first was to “examine youth engagement and leadership in the United States as a means of developing an engaged citizenry.” The delegation from Kazakhstan met with students from the International School of the Americas to learn more about how they were becoming engaged global citizens and leaders through research and community service projects at their school. The Ettling Center for Civic Leadership at the University of the Incarnate Word also provided information on service learning projects and voter participation efforts for university students.
The Kazakhstani delegation also came to “learn about youth policies at the federal, state and local levels.” Knox Early Childhood Education Center was an invaluable resource in providing more information for our international visitors about national policies and programs for the youth of the United States. MOVE San Antonio also provided an in-depth break-down of youth voting patterns and ways to motivate millennials to vote in federal, state, and local elections. San Antonio’s VentureLab explained the regulatory policies and legal framework for business owners in San Antonio that they have navigated whilst helping local youth to learn entrepreneurship and business skills.
While meeting with leaders of “community organizations and grassroots advocacy groups that foster youth leadership skills and engage young people through education, economic opportunity and civic participation,” participants witnessed the dramatic effect of organizations like Café College, which works through the City of San Antonio government to encourage high school students to continue on to higher education by providing resources on application processes, financial aid programs, scholarships, academic aid, and more. In meeting with the San Antonio Area Foundation and their City Year program leaders, the delegation learned more about keeping students at the university level engaged in their community by helping underprivileged students in local schools through AmeriCorps volunteers.
The State Department also outlined that this IVLP initiative should “examine the impact of youth leadership programs on at-risk youth.” In addition to organizations like Café College and City Year, Taj Matthews and his incredible organization, the Claude and ZerNona Black Developmental Leadership Foundation, exemplify the struggles and triumphs of providing a new path forward for underprivileged youth. Mr. Matthews explained his successes in aiding 1,100 at-risk youth by providing a positive image for them to aspire to and engaging them with strict academic expectations, community service programs, and etiquette training.
To “discuss innovative ways to use social media to establish networks that engage youth as agents of social and political change in the community,” MOVE San Antonio was a tremendous resource that allowed participants to learn more about the social media trends of youth in the United States and the difficulty of encouraging political engagement in an ever-changing landscape of new social media platforms. New social media outlets like Snapchat have been changing the type of discourse necessary to get youth in the San Antonio area and across the United States to get out and vote.
By examining each of these areas and learning from innovative practices in San Antonio, the Kazakhstani delegation came away learning more about civil society, youth leadership, and education in the San Antonio area and the United States.