Worldhealer's Teen Global Awareness Program (Teen GAC)
Worldhealer is committed to expanding the impact of the program by recruiting, training and mentoring teens, thereby creating a sustainable Teen GAC. Our goal from the inception of the university-level GAC has always been to complete our student-to-student mentorship program by adding a stable teen component. This provides learning and teaching opportunities to both the university-aged student leading the program and the teens who are participating in it.
Since Worldhealer was created based on the belief that fostering the intellectual and personal growth of young people worldwide would encourage a positive global future of social equity and sustainable economic and community development, we ultimately want to give our teens the tools through which they can better understand and engage with critical social issues that surround them. Our mission and purpose comes entirely from our members' own experiences and from reflecting on what we wish we would have known at their age that would have enriched our own understanding of the circumstances we have been surrounded by.
Through Teen GAC, we aspire to reduce racism and discrimination while increasing tolerance and understanding for others through a 6-week cyclical workshop program for grades 7-12 that focuses on cultivating an appreciation for global diversity. We are dedicated to developing young leaders, by offering valuable leadership and entrepreneurship skills. Our program focuses on the development of both soft and hard skills, along with an education in global awareness and diversity. We hope that by engaging in these workshops, our teens will be able to carry themselves more purposefully and think more critically about the world.
The goal for Teen GAC is to mimic the model we currently have with our university-age leadership program. This means that there is a single Teen GAC Program that is independent from any specific school, where any teens can join, regardless of their grade, school or location. We want to reach a wider audience of teens, and connect students across race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, language, nationality, family culture, and schools they attend. Remarkably, transitioning online due to the Covid pandemic has been positive in establishing more connections with organizations and schools to partner with, increasing opportunities to introduce programs like ours to a wider selection of schools and after-school programs around the state and the nation. Teen GAC seems to fit conveniently with new online learning schedules and is a great educational, interactive activity that allows teens to participate in a mentorship program that develops skills for future university and job applications. Additionally, we have found that when young people understand what they gain from participating in the program, it encourages long-term commitment. By creating the program in a way that attracts teens and demonstrates to teens the validity and importance of their impact in the world, we empower a future generation of leaders.
The GAC Workshops have proven to foster the artistry of debate, critical analysis, and the development and articulation of an educated opinion. Mentors, club leaders, or guest speakers provide a background and historical introduction of each session’s topic, including specific current or historical events, followed by an interactive student activity such as a discussion or debate. Each workshop focuses on a different global subject and covers a wide range of intercultural communications, sustainability, and philanthropic education topics. These teens then create and deliver lessons to elementary school students in tandem with the university-aged leaders, which will promote further student ownership of the program, and capitalize on the profound connections developed in the student-to-student mentorship relationship. Subsequently, the teens will join in teaching Global Awareness Workshops to the younger age groups at after school programs and team up in other areas to enhance other skills.
During the second part of the session, the university-age leaders team up to support the teens on a 5-week term project that is presented on week 6 and changes each term. These projects aim to teach the teens about philanthropy and mimic the university-age model by focusing on academic leadership, fund development and community marketing/outreach. Projects have included preparation and final presentation of global awareness workshops to a lower grade audience; fundraising events that the teens have proposed, such as an international meet & greet party or global trivia event; and community outreach events such as a Global Carnival, Cultural Lounge or Open House or social media posts to aid in empowering teens to voice their opinions on justice issues that they believe in and want to support.
In response to the extreme turmoil in the world in 2020, Worldhealer designed a new Teen GAC program around empathy and tolerance, while also educating teenagers on the dangers of bullying and oppression. The new Teen GAC curriculum aligns perfectly with the Worldhealer mission statement to increase cultural and social awareness and is based on direct feedback received from the teens who specifically wanted to learn more about issues of social justice (ie: systemic oppression, racism, and BLM). Our Winter 2021 program on “Bullying and Oppression” introduces a concept teens are likely familiar with (bullying) and connects it to common themes like the desire for power and how to have courage to speak out against injustice. By starting out with a more familiar topic, we can connect those common themes to broader instances of “bullying” in our society (ie: systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, etc). Learning about these issues not only educates the teens but also helps them practice an incredibly important life-skill—empathy. We teach teens how to listen to others’ experiences, and regardless of their personal beliefs on these subjects, we hope they carry that skill with them to other aspects of their lives. This is the mission of Worldhealer.
The Teen GAC program is currently operating over Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic and is free of charge to participating teens. No application or previous experience is required to join the program.
Worldhealer’s workshop content is award winning, with its on-site university club having received the Organizational Excellence Award for Best Anti-Bias Program from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 2020 and the Teen GAC Program being awarded the Fund for Santa Barbara’s Youth Making Change (YMC) grant award in 2021.
Our Board is immensely supportive of our efforts enabling our Global Awareness Program to run successfully for years. We are fiscally responsible and strive to maintain organizational effectiveness. We have always held ourselves to a high standard of ethics to serve as an example to the youth and community we serve.