More than 125 alumni from NIU’s Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Program, which has included lessons in diplomacy and civic action, recently gathered in Jakarta for a U.S. State Department-sponsored summit.
Their activities including the creation of a video that artistically expressed their opinions on human rights, one of the topics of discussion.
“We wanted to celebrate Human Rights Day with them,” the video begins in a typewritten message. “Rather than tell them why we think human rights are important, they told us.”
During the 25-day program at NIU, which began in 2009, participants learn about cooperative leadership strategies, diplomacy, civic action, waterway ecology and American culture. Group members spend more than two weeks in Illinois before leaving for a week in Washington, D.C., to wrap up their visit.
The program works to promote good governance and advance conflict management and prevention. Participants gain the confidence to collaborate and establish mutual understanding across ethnic, religious, and national boundaries. They also develop both intercultural understanding and national pride through interaction and expression and a commitment to community development.
“The experience they had really taught them about American ideas,” Ledgerwood says, “about democracy, human rights and human dignity.”