Knowledge is power. This is the simple premise of Global Kids, an innovative and very successful after school youth development program in NYC and Washington, DC. Dropping out of high school and not attending college is a rampant problem among at risk and underserved youth, and Global Kids aims to reverse this trend, not by providing SAT prepping and homework support, but by educating inner city children about foreign policy and global issues.
It may not seem obvious at first, but Global Kids strongly believes that in order to improve school performance and self-esteem, young people need to be informed about and feel connected to the world outside their own communities. “No one does what we do,” says the organization’s executive director Evie Hantzopoulos, “We help our youth understand how global affairs impact our local communities, so that they are better prepared for the 21st Century workplace.”
Along with more conventional program areas like mentoring, college counseling and digital media training, Global Kids students participate in workshops, classes and round table sessions with influential policy makers, reporters, academics and the like. They are encouraged to become actively involved in social issues. “Our youth are seen as assets and help shape our programs. They serve on our board of directors and are given the developmental support and mentoring they need to overcome obstacles they face,” says Hantzopoulos. “We expose them to key experts in the fields of foreign policy, human rights, public policy, grassroots organizing, international business and provide them with content rich learning experiences, leadership training, and opportunities for social action, media creation, and peer education that really set them apart.”
And their approach appears to be working. 94 percent of Global Kids students graduate high school and 92 percent go on to college. “Sometimes we see the transformation before our eyes,” says Hantzopoulos, “I’ve seen a homeless student who was barely making it graduate from high school go on to college; I’ve seen a shy, stuttering immigrant student go onto a career in broadcast journalism; and I’ve seen a young person who rarely left her neighborhood want to become an Ambassador.” But the best endorsements come from the students themselves: “Global kids has impacted my life in tremendous ways,” says 18-year-old Gabriel Wahab from Brooklyn, whose Global Kids experience includes participating in the UN summit on climate change and giving a keynote address to the first spouses of the world leaders there, “It has given me opportunities that I didn’t even know existed for someone of my age and of my background. I feel like so many inner city youth get lost in the mix and aren’t really cared for. Global Kids is a place were I feel like I have power and what I want matters.”
To support Global Kids and/or participate in their annual benefit on April 26th, click here.