High schoolers go global

Engaging "young diplomats" in world affairs

Global issues affect people in Sangamon County, but there is not enough awareness, says Barbara Lestikow of the World Affairs Council of Central Illinois (WACCI). This organization hosts nationally recognized experts to help educate local residents about U.S. foreign policy, global economic and environmental issues and international politics. Lestikow, a retired educator, is the driving force to involve high school students. In September WACCI launched a Young Diplomats program to open a window to the world for high school students and give them a more global outlook on current affairs.  

Jerry Lopian of Southeast High School and Melinda Bilyeu of Rochester High School were the first teachers to volunteer. Each month a Sangamon County high school is invited to send a small group of students to engage with the speaker in advance of the public program. Teachers select the students and brief them on the topic and speaker. "These types of experiences are invaluable to our students," said Bilyeu. "It helps them see outside of their community and think about global issues." Her students attended the October program about the impacts of COVID on Mexican women.

Visit https://mywacci.org/ for more information about WACCI and upcoming programs via Zoom.

Tuesday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m. WACCI, Sister Cities Association of Springfield, Springfield Commission on International Visitors and the Meridian International Center will explain how they contribute to international education in central Illinois. This is part of International Education Week at UIS.

Thursday, Dec. 2, 7 p.m. Peter Martin, defense policy and intelligence reporter for Bloomberg News in Washington, D.C., will speak about his book that charts China's transformation from an isolated and impoverished communist state to a global superpower.

Help raise awareness of how Sangamon County has a global impact. Contact WACCI at worldaffairsillinois@gmail.com if your business is engaged in overseas work, if you volunteer in another country or if you are an immigrant or refugee who can share stories about what is happening in your home country.

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