For the third summer in a row, local Allendale Columbia students participated in the Summer Global Leadership Program, alongside Iraqi students from the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). IYLEP is a four-week exchange program for promising Iraqi students to visit different U.S. cities and learn about leadership, peace building, and civic engagement. It is sponsored and funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by World Learning. Rochester is the only host city that has American students participate in the IYLEP program for the full two weeks, allowing both American and Iraqi participants to build a strong bond and further break down stereotypes and misconceptions.
AC Program Coordinator Tony Tepedino, shares his reflections on this year’s program:
“For two weeks this summer, I was the Program Coordinator for a summer program called the Iraqi Young Leadership Exchange Program (IYLEP). This is the second year I have been in this role, and I have been very fortunate to be able to be a part of this program. IYLEP is a program that brings a group of Iraqi students to the U.S. for four weeks. The first week is in Vermont, then the next two are in one of four host cities, and then the students travel to Washington D.C. for the last week.
Iraqi teens choose to apply to be part of this program. From what the students have shared with me, it’s a highly selective process, and a spot in the program is very sought after. I wanted to share a few things that have really impressed me about these students (and families) I have worked with over the last two years.
First, as a parent, it’s difficult for me to wrap my brain around how hard it must be to send your child to another country, let alone a country that has been at the center of so much controversy, tension and, simply put, war. I really don’t know how I would react if my teenage child approached me to ask to travel to Iraq. The courage they need to have to travel from their home in Iraq, to the U.S., for four weeks is no small thing. The students arrive here with an open-mind and an accepting nature. They stay with host families for two weeks, and with that comes getting used to a new home, new people, new foods, new routines, and a language barrier (a few students shared that their primary English teacher was YouTube!). Having New York as a destination brings excitement, until they realize that Rochester, New York and New York City are two very different places and that the famous NYC from movies and television is unreachable for a quick day trip.
As our busy two weeks began, I especially enjoyed observing how quickly the U.S. and Iraqi students bonded and came together as a group. This is something we work on and teach at Allendale Columbia, but the cool part is how this happens genuinely and organically. There is a real sense of connection, love, and caring for each other that occurs during our two weeks together.
During our time together, we covered a lot of ground, through the city and beyond, to immerse ourselves in a variety of different cultural and skill building experiences:
- City of Rochester Pedal Tour
- The M.K. Gandhi Institute
- The Maplewood YMCA
- Teen Empowerment
- NCBI Workshops with Steve and Navi
- Tour of the Susan B. Anthony House
- Ganondagan State Historic Site
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with, and to get to know, the students who have been a part of this program. I applaud their bravery and their willingness to travel so many miles to learn, grow, and share their culture and perspective.
I can only speak for myself, but I know that I am forever changed by this experience, and I hope that it has left a similar mark on each of the individuals who were able to be a part of this unique program.”
Tony TepedinoSince starting at Allendale Columbia in 1994, Tony has taken on many different roles. He has coached a variety of sports, including Varsity Girls’ Basketball and Varsity Golf. He taught physical education for seven years, kindergarten for seven years, and served as the Director of Curricular Technology for five years. Tony is currently serving as a faculty member in the Center for Entrepreneurship where he teaches electives for both middle and upper school students. He is also the Faculty Professional Learning Coordinator and C0-creator of TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool. Recently, Tony was Co-chair of the NYSAIS Accreditation Steering Committee and is a member of the Upper School Student Success Team responsible for Student Life. During the summer, Tony also works as Program Coordinator for the Iraqi Youth Leadership Exchange Program (IYLEP). He holds a master’s degree in Education from Roberts Wesleyan College. Tony is the proud father of two children, Gabi and Trip. He enjoys hiking, reading, travel, cooking, and learning about new things.
- Apply for next year’s program! (students ages 15-17)
- Become a host family
- Learn more about the AC Center for Global Engagement
Allendale Columbia School’s Center for Global Engagement, in partnership with Rochester Global Connections, offers the Summer Global Leadership Program designed for young people in Rochester interested in learning about and engaging in global issues. Students participate in a 2-week, all-day program where they work, eat, and play with highly-selected youth who are part of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). Together the students receive training and engage in hands-on projects that explore leadership skills, civic education, diversity and inclusion, human rights, and peace building. Through cross-cultural collaboration, this program provides all participants with a life-changing experience to help make an impact both locally and globally.
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Global Engagement, Partnerships, The Birches, Upper School, US Birches