For the sixth graders at Jefferson Middle School, the world just got a little bigger thanks to a group of Georgetown students involved with the One World Youth Project.
The organization, founded by Jess Rimington (SFS ’09), matches college students with local elementary and middle school students to teach them about global issues and to foster respect for different cultures.
Project managers Brian Potochney (SFS ’15) and AsjedHussain (SFS ’15) currently run Georgetown’s program.
The pair spent the week of July 9 in Kosovo for the OWYP annual Summer Training Conference this past summer learning how to manage and inspire a team of Georgetown students — reffered to as project ambassadors — as they took to the classroom.
“A big part of it was getting to know the people at the other hubs because when you’re working throughout the year over the computer, you don’t really get to have that face-to-face interaction,” Hussain said. “It really makes you invested in the organization.”
Once a week, eight Georgetown students travel to Jefferson Middle School to teach four classes of sixth grade students about local and global perspectives on the cultures of Kosovo, Turkey, Guyana and Pakistan.
Each OWYP lesson consists of two parts: a general lesson about different aspects of American traditions and an exchange activity, which usually includes a video made by the middle school students that portrays a specific aspect of the home country’s culture.
“Last time we did ‘what was your favorite artist or musician,’ so we picked some kids to sing some of it in front of the camera, and we are going to send it over to them [in Guyana],” project ambassador Nilesh Seshadri (COL ’15) said.
The goal of the exchange component is to demonstrate American culture to students at the partner school,and vice versa.
“One of the best things is that a lot of the people who are in these classes … they haven’t really been able to leave D.C., and if they have, it’s not been very far,” Seshadri said. “I think it’s really eye opening for them to see what another culture is like compared to what they actually view of this one city.”
But students’ insularity can sometimes slow down the teaching process.
“In the process of breaking [the material] down for the students, we have to go a little slower, so we don’t always follow the timeline that OWYP gives us,” Project Ambassador Camille Squires (COL ’15) said. “Getting them to understand that Turkey is halfway around the world and is a place — not a food dish — definitely takes time.”
Scheduling conflicts also arose this semester; the sixth grade teachers have to plan their lessons and simultaneously coordinate OWYP classes.
On the other hand, some Georgetown students had to leave the program. This semester alone, the program dropped from 15 to nine members because of commitment conflicts.
Stephanie Zhou (SFS ’15) became a project ambassador last spring but left the program this fall because it conflicted with other extracurriculars.
“I think it’s an excellent program, [but] in terms of curriculum, it is being ironed out,” Zhou said. “What’s unique about it is a lot of the curriculum; how it’s taught is based on how it’s interpreted by the individual peer project ambassadors. That’s really cool, but it also adds to the time commitment for the individuals projects.”
Hussain was not deterred by the decline in membership.
“We over-recruited because we knew that people would drop out,” Hussain said. “It is kind of a big commitment, and people don’t realize that originally.”
Georgetown’s OWYP branch aims to expand the program from six to 15 universities next year in order to begin a partnership with South Africa and India.
Hussain said he also hopes to expand Georgetown’s program to include seventh and eighth grade students. However, accomplishing this goal, will require additional committed project ambassadors.
“It would be like a three-year program. … It’s definitely a long-term goal,” he said.