IVLP Impact Awards Alumni Discussion Series: Youth & STEM


Through the IVLP Impact Awards Initiative, recent alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program administer community impact projects that bring the experiences of their exchange program home to their communities and promote innovative solutions to shared global challenges. The IVLP network continues to bring together community leaders from across the world to exchange best practices for involving youth in science, technology, engineering, art and math, in order to shape the next generation of critical thinkers who will be prepared to address relevant issues shared across the global community.

On Wednesday, August 23, 2023, Meridian International Center hosted a virtual panel of IVLP Impact Awardees with projects related to youth & STEM. The awardees discussed their IVLP Impact Award community impact projects, their work, and their inspiration & outreach. Melissa Monge, Costa Rica, moderated the discussion with featured panelists Anantya, Indonesia, Angéla Jedlovszky-Hajdú, Hungary and Awa Sy, Senegal. The panelists shared about their projects and broader work to involve children and youth in STEM.

Some top takeaways from the program were:

1. The Shared IVLP Experience Inspired Their Current Work

The panelists connected over their shared experience on their IVLP project Hidden No More: Empowering Women Leaders in STEM, organized by the U.S. Department of State and FHI 360 and how their exchange experience influenced their IVLP Impact Award project. For Anantya, her visit to Orlando exposed her to the power of involving families in STEM education which inspired her to create the Mother-Daughter STEAM Camp Project. Similarly to Anantya, Awa was inspired in Orlando and recalled meeting with "young girls at the Orlando Science Center, and they were showing us things that they created with robotics, and it was amazing. They showed us how they used this passion… and their creativity to be able to show it to their community.” Angela also spoke about the various companies with whom she met on her IVLP project and the critical role the private sector plays in the long term and sustainable support of STEM education.

2. The Inclusion of Art in STEAM

The panelists further discussed how the field is evolving with many now adopting the acronym STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). As Melissa explained, "Design and arts and creative thinking...have to be merged in [to] STEM in order to find innovative solutions." Anantya agreed, noting that, "Art sparks the creative mindset as well. [and inspires] out-of-the-box thinking."

3. Targeting Programming Towards a Specific Audience

Each panelist shared why they chose to work with their particular age group. Angela spoke about how she was inspired by her IVLP experience to focus her project on a younger audience, "Research shows that if we are talking about the high school girls, they already decided that they want to turn to STEM...But in the age of 9 and 10 they are much more sensitive from the outside." Anantya chose a similar age group of 7- to 12-year-olds, explaining that "I think that was one of the crucial [times] where they're falling in love with something." In contrast, Awa's project focuses on high school students, "this club would influence...their university studies, their career." Melissa summed it up well when she reflected that engaging multiple age groups is "part of the sustainability that we are all aiming for."

4. The Importance of Role Models

Awa linked her own inspiration for her project to her drive to inspire her participants: "During our IVLP, our different meetings showed us that it was really important to have role models. Role models inspire us, educate us during our whole journey." Anantya's innovative approach to her project involves engaging both mothers and daughters in STEAM education, to help create these role models at the family level. Angela also spoke about the need to support positive role models within the classroom as well: "a good teacher or a good experience can help [students] to grow and blossom."

5. Sharing Resources for Similar Projects

An audience member asked the panelists to share their thoughts on engaging community partners at various scales in similar projects. Awa encouraged a comprehensive approach, sharing that many projects "would benefit from working with local structures in their community, whether it's the schools or training centers, even, if you go to City Hall or the local government, because there can be programs to promote education locally and then when you go from the local level to the regional level, you can start approaching businesses." Anantya agreed and added that media coverage can also help galvanize support for a project. Angela closed the discussion by reflecting on the importance of paying it forward and educating the youth now, so that they can not only take on tomorrow's challenges with their critical thinking and strong STEAM skills, but also serve as role models for the following generation, creating lasting change.

“We need to encourage children to explore, to ask questions and to discover things in a simple manner and through games and especially to let them make mistakes. It's very important for the learning experience” – Awa Sy, Panelist


If you have any questions, please reach out to the IVLP Impact Awards Team at IVLPImpactAwards@meridian.org.

If interested in attending more IVLP Impact Award events click here.

Project summary

IVLP Impact Awards Alumni Discussion Series: Youth & STEM | August 2023
Countries: Costa Rica, Senegal, Indonesia, Hungary
Impact Areas: Youth Leadership Development, Science and Technology
Program Areas: Global Leadership