Youth Inspiring Leadership and Civic Participation – A Multi-Regional Project

Youth Inspiring Leadership participants volunteer at Second Harvest Food Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina

On June 10th, 2017 Meridian welcomed 23 young leaders from all over the world for an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) that was centered on inspiring youth leadership and civic participation. Through this program the participants were able to explore advocacy and leadership strategies to facilitate social empowerment and justice; examine the importance of pluralism, tolerance, and volunteerism as components of civic life in the U.S.; and study model programs that promote civic awareness and youth leadership. The participants convened in Washington, DC before travelling together to Portland, OR. From Portland, the visitors were split into four groups that traveled to Pensacola, FL; Cleveland, OH; Charlotte, NC; and Tulsa OK. They all reconvened in Boston, MA on June 27th to officially close out the program.

While in Washington, the group had an appointment with Mr. Steven Culbertson, President and CEO of the service oriented non-profit Youth Service America, which covered youth volunteerism and community engagement in the U.S. The participants were also able to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building, meet with representatives from Ashoka's Youth Venture, and partake in a Strengths Finder workshop with Gallup. The latter appointment helped participants to identify their greatest areas of strength especially as it relates to their personality and leadership abilities. A meeting with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Youth Issues offered a U.S. foreign policy perspective on supporting youth engagement worldwide.

In Portland, the young leaders met with organizations including Volunteers of America - Oregon; community-based non-profit organization named SOLVE, which works to bring communities together to improve the environment and raise awareness of environmental issues in Oregon; P:ear, a non-governmental organization that works with transitional and homeless youth through education, arts, and recreation; and the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington. Before departing on their city-splits, the visitors had the opportunity to enjoy home hospitality with local families.

Each of the city-splits were set to cover similar themes including youth empowerment through volunteerism; youth in government; and advocacy for social justice issues. The local Community Based Members were also able to organize home hospitality dinners and community service events with organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank, Manna Food Pantries, and the Rotary Club of Cleveland. Highlights for appointments included a meeting with two City Council District Candidates in Charlotte; attending an after-school activity with AMIkids Day Center in Pensacola; and an appointment with the organizers of Peace in the Hood, a summer camp that includes crisis intervention and mediation programs for at-risk youth in Cleveland. After several days of programming, the visitors all traveled Boston.

In Boston, the visitors had a chance to meet with the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services; staff from the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University; and MassVote, an organization that works to encourage active political participation for the local community. Following a Red Sox game and a coalition building workshop that followed up on the Gallup Strengths Finder's test results, the participants departed the country to travel home and apply what they'd learned to their respective organizations.


International Visitor Leadership Program, U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State

Project summary