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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GIRA Grant Funds Grad Students’ Debate Initiative in Africa

Kelvin Moyaka, a former student at St. Aloysius Gonzaga in Nairobi, Kenya, always avoided public speaking until his school began participating in regular debate competitions.

“This made my English teacher persistent in inviting me to public speaking competitions,” Mokayasaid. “In as much as we had to do the research, we also had to come up with workable solutions to the problem which was after doing some real critical thinking.”

This program was the Kenyan Urban Debate League  — a group founded by Dylan Groves (GRD ’13) and Morten Seja (GRD ’13) through a grant from the Georgetown International Relations Association.

GIRA is currently accepting applications for its third annual Global Generation Grant, which awards up to $2,500 to undergraduate and graduate Georgetown students who propose projects promoting the teaching and understanding of international relations worldwide.

“Georgetown is about being men and women for others, and a lot of people have great ideas to fulfill that statement,” GIRA Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Kuo (MSB ’13) said. “Any opportunity that people have to further [GIRA’s mission] is really great and something that we are excited to support.”

Last year, GIRA awarded grants to two projects: KUDL and the Diversity Initiative.

With their GIRA grant of $2,500 to KUDL, Groves and Seja were able to extend work they had begun through internships with nongovernmental organization Somali Family Services.

“We saw it as a great opportunity for students to become more politically engaged, gain a sense of empowerment about their involvement in political and social issues affecting them and to get them excited about reading, research and public speaking,” Groves said.

Seja agreed.

“The idea was to give students not just a voice, but also make them critically engage with society,”Seja said, acknowledging the increased importance of this goal in St. Aloysius, a school that educates children orphaned by AIDS.

The two students worked with St. Aloysius administrators to enroll approximately 30 students in KUDL, leading weekly debate practices and setting up competitions debating Kenyan political and cultural issues. KUDL also teaches 30 students at the all-girls Loreto Convent Valley Road secondary school, also in Nairobi.

“This was a first in so many ways,” St. Aloysius Assistant Principal Kennedy Apopo said. “The students who were involved really sharpened their speaking skills. They learned how to research using Google, as each debate required a great deal of research as a part of preparation. The students also had opportunities to discuss and debate contemporary issues in society — both regional and international.”

The Diversity Initiative, which received a $2,400 GIRA grant, was founded by Patrick Deem (SFS ’14) to foster greater interest in study abroad in August 2011. He and Michelle Chen (SFS ’14) used their grant to give six $400 scholarships to supplement outside study abroad scholarships for students who would not normally be able to afford the study-abroad experience.

Diversity Initiative volunteers, who are former exchange students, contact D.C.-area public and charter schools to encourage interest in studying abroad during high school and college among their students.

Study-abroad scholarships — like those awarded by the State Department — exist, but many are non-negotiable and cannot be altered to suit individual students’ needs. The Diversity Initiative supplements State Department scholarships to cover extra expenses.

“For example, some students will already have passports, some will not. … Some students have special medications, some will not,” Deem said. “It was these specific individual costs that we tried to help deserving students with through the GIRA grant.”

Currently studying abroad in Menton, France, Deem said that he is excited to continue his work with the Diversity Initiative when he returns to the United States.

“[The grant] allows you to do things that I know I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” Deem said.

GIRA is accepting applications for its 2013 grant competition until Feb. 27.

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