This month 113 American and Iraqi student volunteers from United Planet’s 7-week virtual exchange program presented the outcomes of their innovative group projects to address public health issues related to COVID-19.
The program included high school students from Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Ohio, the Hopi and Navajo Tribal Nations, and Iraq. College students from Boston University and Salahaddin University also joined the exchange program to help guide the younger students.
The group projects addressed public health crises that have arisen from COVID-19 across a range of areas. For example, one group of students focused on increased domestic violence amidst the pandemic. They raised awareness by developing a bilingual website in English and Arabic as a resource for domestic abuse victims, survivors, and friends and family who want to better understand and support their loved ones. Another team of students focused on using art as therapy. They created a virtual platform called Corona Art Exhibition where artists can express themselves by sharing new works. Artists have embraced the platform; they are uploading art to the website and social media channels daily. A complete list of projects is available on United Planet’s website.
“I think it’s easy for all of us to feel despair or overwhelmed by the challenges we’re facing but to see a multinational program to come together during this time really encourages me and I know it’ll encourage other people as well,” said Kathryn Kiser, Deputy Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate Erbil in Iraq, who met virtually with some of the students as they
presented their results.
Northeastern University Professor Donna Lubrano, who oversaw the program in her role as a virtual exchange officer with United Planet, said, “I’m proud beyond words. As a professor, I have worked with many fantastic students of all ages. These high school students have really impressed me with their commitment and dedication to creating insightful projects that have had a true impact. Bravo to the team captains and faculty who supported the students in their quest to create incredible work.”
“I was really impressed with the maturity, research, creativity, and preparation of each team,” said Shelley Brown, an assistant professor at Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College. “I consider this virtual exchange a tremendous success in cross- cultural understanding, collaboration, and leadership that the high school student participants and college team leaders will reflect on and view as a shaping experience throughout their careers.”
The United Planet America-Iraqi virtual exchange was designed to foster 21st-century leadership skills like collaboration and cross-cultural understanding as the students worked together on projects to support their communities through the global pandemic. To learn more about the student projects, visit the United Planet website.
The American-Iraqi Public Health Teams Addressing COVID-19 Project is supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute. The Stevens Initiative is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.