By Noah K. (DYLEP 2016 Participant)
There are few opportunities to make new, long-lasting friends in this society. With increasingly addictive technology, increased stress, and the devaluation of true friendship, it’s become extremely difficult to forge and continue true bonds between individuals.
In our current political climate, both on the national and international spectrums, a glossy, jaded sense of reality has blurred our vision – in simple words, we have made it more difficult to make friends, especially on the international scale. Furthermore, the word friend is a mesmerizing one. At first thought, to one it may mean a person who is simply an acquaintance. Upon further review, however, it is found that friends can be instruments of change – they can join you in forwarding social progress, conducting awareness campaigns, and the like. They can also be there for you in the tender moments, when you feel alone – with a friend, that feeling/burden is lifted. There are not many programs which are attempting to forward friendships between international youth, and to effectively develop these relationships to foster social change. DYLEP, or the Digital Young Leaders Exchange Program, is one of these few programs. This program changed my life forever in the summer of 2016, and it allowed me to forward social justice, educate myself, and make friends: friends who forwarded social progress, conducted awareness campaigns, and were there for me in the tender moments.
DYLEP is a program which truly fights to break social norms, increase our critical thinking, improve our online skills/etiquette, and create long-lasting friendships. If you are selected for DYLEP, you are truly in for the ride of your life. I learned an extensive amount of tangible information, specifically concerning social action projects and social issues. I think the most valuable part of the program, though, is the intangible teachings I learned. I learned important guidelines for active listening and leading, thus allowing me to improve as a leader. The friends I made I still talk to about a variety of subjects, and I love them with all my heart (shoutout to Mhamad, Maryam, Mariam, Rand, Sara, the Legend (Ahmed), and the rest of the DYLEP gang!). My friends have become my rocks, and are always there for me. By participating in DYLEP, you will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make life-long friends. Utilize it!
At the end of DYLEP, I needed to make an action project which would serve my community. After great discernment, I selected to create a virtual exchange program – I found myself so truly inspired and impacted by DYLEP that I wanted to replicate in my own community. Being a pilot-program, it would be very simple; no doubt we would hit our rough patches, since this was a very new concept. Below is an excerpt of a proposal I drafted (which concerned the creation of my program, the Yo Ghana Skype Exchange) for the board of a non-profit, which I’m a coordinator for, Yo Ghana!:
“The initial goal during Year 1 would be to complete six, thirty minute calls which would be spread out over a couple months with dialogue – via the blog, etc – occurring in between. Suggested topics for these modules would be: one, Introductions; two, Family and Home Life; three, School Life; four, Future Aspirations and Dreams; five, a Presentation on One Social Issue in their Community and Ideas about how to Fix It; and six, Closings and Goodbyes. This trajectory of modules, however, is just a suggestion and could be adjusted depending on teachers’ opinions and insights.”
This program connects students from Portland, Oregon to students in Ghana. Currently, I am working with one partnership, and the results have been outstanding; seeing the students faces brighten up, their visages radiating like glistening suns filled with happiness. The program is ongoing, and it has been an amazing experience so far. My hope is to create a solid set curriculum to present to teachers, and expand the Yo Ghana Skype Exchange further. After completing DYLEP, you will have the skill-set and the connections to implement an action project in your community, a project which I’m sure will be highly beneficial.
This generation has an amazing opportunity: the internet, particularly media outlets such as Skype or Facebook. We must utilize these various subsets of the internet to our advantage. DYLEP has accomplished this and more – it truly changed my life. I wish all DYLEP 2017 participants well on your journey – make friends, invest the amount of time the program deserves, and allow yourself to experience a love which is rarely existent nowadays. Allow your eyes to be opened. The power of hope for the future will be discovered, and along with it long-lasting friends.