Each year, the World Affairs Council of Connecticut awards a student or group of students with the Global Engagement Award at our Luminary Award Gala.
The Global Engagement Award reaffirms the CTWAC’s commitment to global education by recognizing extraordinary high school students who address global issues by taking their classroom knowledge into the world.
We are proud to announce this year’s Global Engagement awardee and honorees. These students have demonstrated their enthusiasm and passion for engaging with global issues, going above and beyond to become citizens of the world.
Global Engagement Awardee: Skylar Haines
Skylar travelled to Mexico in fall of 2016 to serve and teach English to students at the Serapio School, an elementary school in an impoverished community. When she returned from her trip, she held a fundraiser called “Peace, Love, and Art: Hope for the Children of Serapio School” and raised over $5,000 through her efforts. This money went to purchasing computers and repairing a room of the school to create a computer lab. The hope is that the students will be able to use these computers to correspond with Hebron Elementary School students in the Spanish program. Skylar hopes that through this correspondence, both groups of students will be able to improve their language skills and learn computer skills while building global relationships.
Skylar’s fundraising has also been used to purchase musical instruments and art supplies for the students of the Serapio School. A part-time music teacher was also hired to come in and teach music classes twice a week. Skylar’s hope is that through music and art, these students can have a creative outlet and an avenue for healing in their lives, as many of them have experienced so much trauma already in their young lives.
Skylar also wrote a book of vignettes about her experiences in Mexico. Through her book, she shares some of the stories of the children that she met. Skylar has a penchant for giving a voice to the voiceless and sharing their stories. She is currently planning another “Peace, Love, and Art” fundraiser to continue to benefit the children of the Serapio School. We are proud to honor Skylar with the Global Engagement Award.
Global Engagement Honorees: Shane Wahlberg, Lucas Wahlberg, and Carson Roth
In March 2017, Carson Roth, Lucas Wahlberg and Shane Wahlberg worked on a
mission project in Cuba through an organization called Experience Missions. Three months before departure, they engaged in fund-raising and service projects to earn money for trip expenses. They also purchased art supplies and sports equipment to donate to an impoverished community in Cardenas, Cuba. They researched Cuba’s political history and identified ways to be culturally sensitive to current events and social factors affecting local people groups.
Upon arring in Cuba, Shane, Lucas, and Carson met local Cuban farmers. They immediately joined the farmers and aided in their work, helping to pick pineapples and working with other field workers. The team also worked with the field workers to provide care packages of rice, beans, and pork to needy members of their isolated community. The team also helped to re-paint a residential facility for citizens with severe mental disabilities. While the facility’s administrators were initially hesitant to let American volunteers inside the building, the opportunity for free physical labor outweighed their fear of government reprisal. This experience positively impacted the Cubans’ perception of Americans and gave the facility a much needed visual facelift.
Although the team originally planned to donate the sports equipment and art supplies that they had purchased to a children’s orphanage, some fears of government confiscation forced the team to change its plans. Luckily, they were able to think creatively and identified a small church preparing for a summer outreach program. While commonplace in the United States, frisbees, markers, sidewalk chalk and soccer balls are rare commodities in Cuba. These items helped to attract youth in the community to the church.
This cross-cultural experience revealed significant limitations of a centralized communist government system as well as how social welfare can fall short. Although Carson, Shane, and Lucas had learned about communism in school, seeing the way it affected personal lives and society as a whole deepened their understanding of it. All members of the team have expressed great interest in returning to Cuba to continue to help the local farmers. Shane, Lucas, and Carson felt that they were “doing it right/vas bien” for the Cuban people by supplying humanitarian aid where the government failed and helping to quicken the American-Cuban thaw with compassion, respect, and service. For these reasons, we are happy to celebrate their efforts with this award.
Global Engagement Honoree: Maria Hoffman
In the summer of 2017 Maria was awarded a scholarship though the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). She embarked on a three week program in Botswana to study Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Science. While there, she was a student, a researcher, a worker and a cultural ambassador. She spoke with townspeople about the human cost and destruction of property related to the migrational shifts. She learned about the role of the government of Botswana as a protector of elephants through legislation and enforcement. Maria’s learning culminated in a collaborative project with other students.
Maria’s learning and work in Botswana was a continuation of her extraordinary exploration of global experiences and citizenship. Her travels and learning began her freshman year, with a two week trip to China with the Confucius Institute. Maria is now an AP Chinese student. In the summer of 2016, Maria traveled to Mexico to complete a three-week community service project. In addition to taking language classes, she built homes, cooked, farmed lavender, and painted houses. Her experiences taught her about the daily struggles of poor farmers in rural Mexico and their connection to the issues of illegal immigration, the cost of labor and the need for clean water. Maria will be traveling to Belize in April to continue her study of Ecology and Wildlife Conservation. This experience brings full circle her focus on working to create environmental solutions. We are pleased to honor Maria for her work in global engagement.
Eleven projects carried out at ten schools were nominated for the 2018 Global Engagement Award. These include: Ming-May Hu, Margot Hill, and Kruttika Gopal, Jonathan Law High School: Model United Nations Club; Marielle Perreault, Platt High School: Info graph on North Korea and U.S. Relations; Sarah Cohen, RHAM High School: Fundraising to build a well in South Sudan through the Water for South Sudan program; Jane Rumley and Molly Partridge, Wethersfield High School: Collecting and delivering school supplies to an under-resourced school in Belize; Shane Wahlberg, Lucas Wahlberg, and Carson Roth, Westminster School: Service Learning in Cuba: Sustainable Farming and Humanitarian Assistance; Trinity College Academy Model United Nations Club: Model UN Conference; Maria Hoffman, Glastonbury High School: Climate Change and Elephant Migration in Botswana; Skylar Haines, RHAM High School: Fundraising to buy school supplies and musical instruments for an under-resourced school in Mexico; Ryann Soltero, The Master’s School, “Faith Seeking Justice” – Development of a bi-lingual (English and Korean) church service; Alexia Weir, East Catholic High School: Volunteer at the HELO (Home Education Love and Opportunity) orphanage in Haiti; John Rousch, Shepaug Valley School (Region 12): Model United Nations (representing France) and World Affairs Forum (ramifications of abrogated nuclear weapons agreements).