African Delegates Put AAHS on the World Stage

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African Delegates Put AAHS on the World Stage

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Global citizen: this is the phrase that pops up everywhere from the news to the classroom to college essays. The meaning of this label can, however, be difficult to grasp. Is being a global citizen akin to being multilingual? Is it about knowing the political structures and cultures of other nations? Is it something more?

As members of a very homogenous community that can easily feel isolated from the rest of the world, this term can be daunting to AAHS students. However, an opportunity recently arose for students to gain a broader understanding of what it means to be an active, global citizen.

On Thursday, November 1st, African delegates from Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Central African Republic, Burundi, Dijibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Togo, and Zambia visited AAHS with the intention of learning more about the functions of American elections, focusing on political involvement of the youth.

AAHS was selected for this opportunity based on connections with the Colorado Springs branch of the World Affairs Council.

TAG coordinator Renee Motter was heavily involved in planning the event and emphasized the benefits of the experience from a student perspective.

Motter stated that in addition to informing the African delegates on the American political system, the event was also intended to “bring the world to Air Academy and to help students to see the world from a whole new perspective…to get an experience that they would never get typically.”

In order to ensure that the delegates felt welcomed, the AAHS community engaged heavily in interdisciplinary collaboration. Prior to the arrival of the delegates, AP government students prepared sheets summarizing election information.

Meanwhile, French 4/5 students translated the election information from the AP government students. French teacher Natalie Chabot explained that “it was such high level translation…really advanced language.”

Chabot felt that the translation was a rare opportunity for American students to see real-world applications of their french skills

She stated that it was important for students to “learn that whenever we’re translating things it doesn’t have to be direct word translation, it’s just the sense of what you’re trying to say…mak[ing] sure [students are] getting the right nuance of the word.”

When delegates first arrived, they were given student-led tours of the school and were allowed to observe teachers. Some classrooms visited included AP US history and French 1.

When reflecting on the visit, Chabot noted, “In general, they [the delegates] were really, really friendly. They were really excited that we had a French class and that we had even talked slightly about [African culture and colonialism].”

Additionally, Chabot was amazed by how conversational and patient the delegates were. She recounted an experience in which she accidentally forgot to use “vous”, the formal pronoun, and instead used “tu” with them, which is typically only used between close friends of equal age and status.

“One of them let me use ‘tu’ with them, which is the informal ‘you’. I accidentally said it and panicked, and they were like ‘No, no, you’re one of our colleagues, you can use ‘tu’ with us any time.”

The tours concluded in the big gym, where the AP government students hosted a “mixer” in which students and delegates introduced themselves to each other.

Once everyone was well acquainted, the event shifted to an overview of the American election system and discussion on this subject. Translators were present throughout the entire visit.

AAHS students and staff welcome African delegates.

AP government student and senior McKeely Lazzelle said that attending the visit was ” the most diverse and interesting thing I’ve ever done.”

Lazzelle elaborated that the visit was also a fantastic learning opportunity for AP government students.

“[It was] a comparitive government kind of thing. We looked at their government and what’s working for them… what’s working for us.”

Ultimately, not only were government students able to widen their understanding of world politics, but French students were also given a glimpse into linguistics as observers and participants in the translating process.

Being a global citizen is about more than knowing about other cultures, it is about being open to new experiences and embracing different perspectives.

To Motter, making these kinds of connections is invaluable.

“For kids today it’s so important that they understand that the world is not this tiny little bubble that we have. This world is so much larger than that…We need to understand that what happens in the world really impacts [us]…the world is so interconnected.”

She elaborated, “Two or three [delegates] came up to me and said ‘Wow you have really impressive students.'”

Shakespeare once theatrically stated, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” If this is true, then AAHS students have had a fantastic opportunity to be more active players on this stage.

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