Collegiate Hosts International Students for 9th Annual Conference

Collegiate School will welcome 41 high school students and their teachers from nine countries as they arrive in Washington, D.C., this weekend for the start of the 9th Annual International Emerging Leaders Conference (IELC).
The conference focuses on the global economy and the environment. For the next 10 days, the international delegates will be hosted by Collegiate families and, alongside 13 Collegiate seniors, will work in teams to solve environmental challenges facing each of their countries. Collegiate seniors are involved in the conference as part of their IELC senior Capstone class. In addition, 30 Collegiate 11th Graders participate as Junior Ambassadors. In that role they may host visitors, welcome guests to campus and assist with campus tours and other events during the conference.

Over the course of the conference, students will hear from various speakers, visit local universities and companies focused on sustainability and innovation, and present their solutions at DesignPitch, a culminating event of the conference open to the general public. The delegates, who come from China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, Italy, Kazakhstan and Morocco, also will spend time with JK-12 Collegiatestudents and share aspects of their cultures.  

Collegiate seniors Gabrielle Dunn and Milan Mehta will be among the School’s ambassadors. They sat down with IELC Capstone teacher Rhiannon Boyd to talk abouts about IELC, why it is such an important event and what they are looking forward to during the 2019 conference.

Why did you want to get involved in IELC?
Gabrielle
I was so drawn to IELC because I’ve always been interested in travel and different cultures and different languages. So, when I realized there was a whole program and class just about learning about different cultures and different ideas, it really appealed to me. 

Milan
My older sister, Maya ‘18, was involved in IELC. When I was in the 8th Grade, we hosted a student from Mexico and I really liked the experience. And then we hosted a kid from Morocco and every night he would come home talking to me about how much he liked it. So I knew that this was whatI wanted to do. 

What makes IELC so special?
Mrs. Boyd
There are so many things that make it special. It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever been a part of. We are living Collegiate’s commitment to Responsible Citizenship in a very visible way. From a people perspective, it is beautiful because it’s intimate on purpose. That’s one of the phrases that I use consistently in explaining the conference. The magic of the curriculum, the magic of the bonding, the magic of developing a skill set happens when you give students space and time to do work when no one is watching. What differentiates IELC from other programs is you get to know individual people who are part of a culture other than your own. And so the intimacy is the very thing that allows all of the skillbuilding and all of the magic to happen. I don’t know of any program like it that is as intentional in allowing that purposeful skillbuilding to happen across cultures in a way that is actually protected from the mass experience of the rest of the school. We want to share our delegates with the entire JK-12 community, but we actually want to protect their learning space because it is school done differently. And that school done differently model is when it’s small and intimate. That’s probably my favorite thing about the conference. You really leave knowing people from around the world and you leave with skills that would not have happened if you had just been going from session to session to session. 

What do you hope to get out of the experience?
Milan
I really hope to bond with the people, because we’ll be in a group for a while. It should be fun to see the mix of cultures. It will be really cool. 

Gabrielle
In past years when I watched all the seniors taking part in IELC, I saw a bunch of different relationships growing. People would get so close with one another and I really value that connection. So I’m really hoping that the people in our class will get to experience the same things that I’ve seen every year.

Mrs. Boyd
I hope that every single person who participates in the conference leaves hopeful. I hope that they leave with confidence that they actually do have the skills to change the world even if it’s in small ways. I hope that they leave with hope for human kindness and empathy. I hope that they leave with an understanding that the world is actually really small and if they travel, they have friends all over the world.

Why is it important for students to participate in the event?
Gabrielle
It motivates other students to want to be a part of it. That’s how I got involved. I saw IELC through the cultural performances and everybody being on campus. It just motivated me to be a part of it. So if we keep exposing younger generations to it, they will work toward it and be motivated to be a part of it someday.

MIlan
I think it’s important because if you see people from other countries and they actually talk to you and interact with you, you learn more about that culture and you come out with a broader perspective about who they are. They are people, not just a country.

Mrs. Boyd
Collegiate is a different school because we’ve been committed to global engagement in this way — to have every single one of our students have a touchpoint with the world, with people who are their peers or people who are slightly older than them. We bring the world to Collegiate every year, and it says something about who we are and what we value. One of the things that makes me motivated to work here is that while we serve our students really well, we serve our city well, we serve our country well and we serve the world well by saying that education has to happen in partnership with people from other divisions, people from our city, people from our partner schools and globally. So we have completely rethought what it means to be a Cougar by inviting other people to be Cougars temporarily. And then forever. They leave with sweatshirts and pride and memories. They are honorary alums. 

Are you ready for the 9th annual conference to begin?
Gabrielle
I think I’m ready. I’ve heard from lots of people that yes, it is a lot of work. It’s grueling, but it’s totally worth it. In the end you get so much more out of it than you put in. Because you are putting in a lot. But you are getting out just as much if not more. It’s really great for us to be able to do something like that.

Milan
I don’t know if I’m prepared. I’ll do what I can. Mrs. Boyd said you can’t prepare enough for an experience like this.

Mrs. Boyd
You have to live it from the inside to really see what it’s like. There’s never enough time to prepare for something that could potentially transform you. So when it’s here, we will be as ready as we ever could have been. We’ll live it and then we’ll be different when it’s done. It’s so exciting. I can’t wait!
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