Because of Covid-19, most school exchange programs have been put on hold since March 2020. Resulting in a loss in cross-cultural learning and international exposure. Starting in July 2020, Citizen Diplomacy aimed to tackle this challenge. We developed the Citizen Diplomat Academy, a free virtual international exchange program for high school students.
Bridging the gap in international education and starting a more equitable model for international exchange regardless of economic means. Students learn to apply the core skills of diplomacy, cross-cultural dialogue, STEM entrepreneurship, and social innovation. High school is such an important time for students. One introduction to an international friend at this point in their social development can influence the trajectory of their lives in a positive, lasting way.
Citizen Diplomat Academy Profile
17-year-old Ryan Tucker has always been curious about the world beyond the walls of his Center City Philadelphia school, Science Leadership Academy. That curiosity and a visit to his school from Citizen Diplomacy International’s Youth Program Director, David Buckholtz, convinced him to sign up for the 9-week Citizen Diplomat Academy.
“This exchange opened my eyes to all the parallels between the lives of people living thousands of miles apart. Even though we all came from completely different walks of life, we had often faced similar hardships and obstacles, which surprised me. Beyond that, the guest speakers exposed me to a number of exciting new career paths and fields which I loved learning about.” – Ryan Tucker, Senior from Science Leadership Academy.
The purpose of the virtual Academy is to introduce students to new international friends and to encourage dialogue and understanding, a core part of diplomacy. “I’ve traveled, but not as far as some of the places that we can virtually visit in the Academy,” said Tucker. Tucker was joined by three other students from Philadelphia and two from Russia for the program which began in February 2022. That meant that he got to watch the lead-up to the war that Russia is waging on Ukraine and talk to his Russian peers as it happened. “We weren’t just talking about it, they were actually living it,” said Tucker. “It was interesting seeing their perspective on things, in America, there’s only one perspective on Russia.”
The Citizen Diplomat Academy was always going to be a learning experience for Tucker, what he didn’t realize was that it would plant a seed of a possibility. “I never thought about studying abroad when I go to college, but I would now and I’m not scared by it,” Tucker said. “I learned a lot [through the Citizen Diplomat Academy] and the best part was getting to interact with different cultures.”