2019 Global Youth Forum: More Relevant Than Ever

As a servicemember, I’ve worked in and around public diplomacy and what we call mil-to-mil operations in a number of countries, and invariably, there are elements of the civilian population involved in the planning and execution of these events.  Typically, those civilian participants are seasoned diplomats or representatives of large non-governmental organizations. 

But on more tactical levels, I’ve been part of some of the most amazing experiences empowering young people at the grassroots level. 

At an elementary school in Haiti, while we brought toothbrushes and water to the school, what happened afterwards made the biggest impact on us all.  An impromptu dance that literally swept us all up in the joy and simplicity of being a child with hope, regardless of the fact that their lives exist in the slums of Port-au-Prince and ours exist inside the borders of stable, developed countries.  At that moment, we were all just people.  That day, now more than 12 years behind me, is imprinted in my psyche forever as a life-changing event.

Similarly, at a girl’s secondary school in Kabul, we brought school supplies into a facility that had now power to the building, no glass in the windows and hosted multiple students at desks that here in the United States would sit only one student.  In those classrooms, we looked into the eyes of young girls who aspired to be presidents, diplomats, teachers and business owners, and they believed they would accomplish their dreams.

In both those deployments, command leadership briefed us frequently that changing a country happens from within, and that it takes a full generation to transform a culture.  That while diplomacy and nation building at the top levels of leadership are critical to setting the path for progress, reaching the populations who vote today and who will take the reigns of government tomorrow are equal if not more important missions.

My deploying years are behind me, and now I’m applying the lessons I learned in those experiences to managing programs that are working with young people around the world through People to People International.  One of those programs is Global Youth Forum.

In a time when we are all globally connected, why is this program culturally significant?

Global Youth Forum is nearly as long-standing as the organization itself.  The program’s mission is to assist in the global education of students from around the world.  It aligns directly with President Eisenhower’s founding principles for People to People International; to enhance understanding, exchange ideas and bring diverse people together to share experiences.

Today’s young people are more culturally aware than ever.  As a generation, they are more tolerant and more socially intelligent than any generation previous.  Issues like poverty, the impacts of the rapidly expanding human populations on resources, racial divisions and the effects of large-scale weather events on humans and the surfaces of the earth are less remote to them than they are even to the generation of their parents.  They have more knowledge at their fingertips that we ever dreamed possible.  But still, most young people live in culturally homogenous areas. 

Global Youth Forum recruits and attracts a diverse group of students who share PTPI’s vision to cultivate engaged and knowledgeable citizen leaders.  We bring people ready to do rather than just observe through their device screens.

GYF 2019 hosted students from New Zealand, South Africa, Mongolia, Guatemala and over a dozen states in the US.  This year’s students identified as African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, lower income, middle income and upper income, LGBT, high-achieving, troubled, college-bound and uncertain of their goals.  They arrived by car, van, plane and train.  But, when the doors opened, they became one cohesive unit almost immediately.

Students this year spent four days learning about the importance of preserving indigenous cultures, celebrating diversity and practicing diplomacy through a Model United Nations experience and an economic development summit.  But more important than the course work, was watching our students from around the world teach each other popular dances from their cultures in preparation for the closing gala or watching naturally assertive students step back and encourage other students to take the lead in presentations, so their experiences and opinions were heard. 

Over the course of its lifetime, Global Youth Forum has influenced nearly 5,000 future leaders.  Most of those students attend GYF on a scholarship generously provided by our sponsors, donors and adult travelers.  If you’ve traveled with People to People, you helped fund one of the nearly 40 scholarships we provided to students attending GYF this year.  A number of generous donors also paid for the travel expenses for students needing financial assistance to get to Albuquerque.  The intent of the scholarships and sponsorships was to ensure we brought together a diverse group of students to learn not just from the instructors but also from each other, both formally and informally.  We are proud to have accomplished that goal this year.

Planning for the 2020 Global Youth Forum is already in progress.  Next year, we hope to have more countries represented and give away more scholarships than ever before.  You are the reason we continue to succeed in our mission to create a more peaceful world from the grassroots.  Every time you travel or donate to PTPI, you give a student the opportunity to be empowered to be an active force in creating and sustaining a more peaceful world.  On behalf of the nearly 60 students who completed Global Youth Forum 2019, thank you!





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COVID-19 update: due to ongoing social distancing requirements and the lack of available resources locally to host students, GYF 2020 is currently postponed to fall 2020. We are planning a reunion conference with our GYF alumni and a select group of local students to help test out a new curriculum and brainstorm location and program ideas. Some of this conference will be live-streamed for our School and Classroom participants and our overseas chapters. Global Youth Forum continues to be our most popular program, bringing in students from around the world to discuss global issues, explore innovative ways to solve problems and develop their leadership, cultural competency and diplomacy skills. Like nearly every other non-profit company, our operations have been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Most notably, the dormitories we host our out of town students in are closed for the summer, so as we plan for GYF, we know we will be hosting local students for day trips only with the possibility some students may come from outside Kansas City and stay in the homes of our staff. We also are not able to bring in any students from outside the US, and due to continued social distancing requirements the student body will be significantly smaller than in the past. Please continue to check back here for more information.

New for 2020: The PTPI President's Reading List

Welcome to the 2020 PTPI President's Reading List. This year, for the first time, we've advanced the Global Book Club to more closely align with our mission and vision and provide a year-long experience in culture, travel, education and global citizenship. The reading list this year includes a diverse selection of books and multimedia that will enrich and inspire you to embrace the adventurer within each of us and to see the potential impact that cultural exchanges and humanitarian service adds to many lives. Join us in our facebook group to talk about what you're reading! Click the graphic to access the full reading list including descriptions of the books. Join our Facebook Group HERE.


Bring the world to your classroom! The first step toward a more peaceful tomorrow is investing in children today. This completely free modern-day pen pal program offers teachers around the world resources, projects, and global connections with teachers and PTPI members to support the development of globally-minded and culturally-competent students. The School & Classroom Program (SCP) is a completely free service that matches your classroom with another classroom from across the globe. While you teach global history and tell stories about adventures in a land far, far away, you can build friendships for your students with others from these very lands. By registering your class, you will be matched with a classroom of similar age and size. You'll receive an SCP guidebook that will help you to build a curriculum that fits the needs of both classrooms. Through pen pal relationships and shared projects, your students will develop global mindedness and exposure to amazing cultures and traditions. This amazing program is very adaptable and can be as simple or in-depth as a teacher chooses for their students. Register in the fall to be matched with a partner classroom from a "far away land" for the school year. Sign up for the School & Classroom Program here or contact Laurie Arellano at (816) 531-4701 for details!

Coming in 2020: digital art competition!

We are evolving our long-standing Global Youth Murals program to allow more participation from our overseas chapters as well as home-schooled students and those students without access to art programs. Our goal is to be more inclusive and to allow students to address global issues with more individual expressions. Check back here for details about our digital art contest! Additional information and submission instructions are in the Global Youth Mural guidelines.



COVID-19 update: scholarship applications will be accepted until further notice. Our scholarship funding has been impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and we are uncertain when scholarship funds will be available to be released to schools. Please be patient as we work with our very generous donors to help continue to fund the program. The Joyce C. Hall College Scholarship is possible through funding provided by a direct bequest from Mr. Hall when he passed. This program not only illustrates the importance of the People to People's mission to Mr. Hall, it is also a symbol of the longstanding partnership between Hallmark and People to People International. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE