Students From Around the World Gather at Collegiate to Collaborate on Real-World Issues

Throughout this week’s International Emerging Leaders Conference (IELC) hosted by Collegiate School, 43 high school students from 10 countries, along with 18 Collegiate seniors, will work together to create viable solutions to environmental problems affecting their respective countries.
The students, who come from China, Ghana, India, Italy, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa and Spain, will be introduced to the design thinking process in order to help produce concepts and prototypes of their ideas. Design thinking involves five steps: discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution.

During the conference, students will hear from experts in the fields of business, branding, product design and the environment. They also will visit the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach and Virginia Commonwealth University’s daVinci Center for inspiration and workshops focused on green construction and innovation, entrepreneurship and experimentation.

The students met on Sunday and spent part of the day in Sharp Academic Commons getting to know each other before visiting Brown’s Island to take part in team-building activities. The evening concluded with a welcome dinner hosted in McFall Hall for the guest students and their Collegiate host families and for the chaperoning teachers from each nation.

On Monday, the students heard from Suly Salazar-Layton, managing director at Differentiated Marketing LLC, who spoke about “Cross-cultural Communication in Global Business.” The international delegates then presented an environmental issue each of their home countries face: Used battery disposal and persistent organic pollutants in China; pollution and erosion from cruise ships docking in Venice, Italy; flooding and land overdevelopment and mismanagement in Malaysia; deforestation in Morocco; polluted drinking water in Spain; improper waste management and disposal in Ghana; air pollution in Kazakhstan; pollution produced by fast food outlets in Mexico, pollution owing to Diwali firecrackers in Delhi, India; the threat of the water hyacinth to waterways in South Africa; and the declining health of the Ogallala Aquifer in the U.S.
In the afternoon, the international students participated in a Live Art workshop facilitated by Brendan Kennedy and Danaë Carter of SPARC, during which they explored how the arts can transform one’s perspective. Later, they were introduced at an Upper School assembly and then broke into their teams to begin work on their assigned tasks.

Angel Mathibe, a student from South Africa, expressed how wonderful she thought the conference was and how she is looking forward to the week ahead.

“I hope to become more mindful of different cultures and more considerate of others as we make solutions for our problems,” she said.

Her classmate Baron Quinton agreed.

“I want to make as many friends and connections as possible with different people,” he said. “Building relationships is key to solving these issues.”

On Thursday, the student teams will practice their pitches before presenting them to the Collegiate community and the general public at DesignPitch in Oates Theater. Prior to their pitches, keynote speaker Linda Cortright, founder, editor and publisher of Wild Fibers magazine will address those in attendance. Ms. Cortright has traveled to nearly 70 countries to better understand the vital role natural fibers play in the environment and people’s lives. In 2015, she, with the support of her subscribers, built the Pangong Craft Center — the first cashmere workshop in India’s High Himalayas — providing much-needed income for the semi-nomadic women of the region.

To conclude the conference, the international delegates will visit with Collegiate students from JK-12th Grade on Friday morning. In the afternoon, they will share their respective customs and traditions at a Cultural Fair for 3rd and 4th Grade students and families. The international students head home on Oct. 7.  This is the 8th annual IELC conference hosted by Collegiate since the School launched this signature program.
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