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Inspiring student projects in the CIS school community
By Christy Clabots, Project Assistant & Higher Education Services Coordinator

Our International Student award recognizes students at member schools who take on projects to improve their community. It’s inspiring to learn about the positive impact these students have their own community, improving the quality of life for others through their own initiatives and interest in being an active global citizen. The projects we learn about are from students of all ages, from elementary through high school, taking on projects big and small.

For the last few years I have had the opportunity to read every nomination for the International Student award and I am excited to share some of the stories that have embodied the work being done at CIS member schools around the world.

A 9-year-old student in China organized a small garage sale at her school by collecting donations of used toys and clothing, and the proceeds of the garage sale fundraiser went towards buying hand warmers and face masks for the local garbage collectors who worked at their school. Not only did these gifts provide physical warmth and comfort to the workers as well as creating a safer and healthier work environment, but they also let these workers know that their work is seen and appreciated by the school community and that their wellbeing is taken seriously.

A high school student at a school in Saudi Arabia was a strong advocate for the rights of people of color, and inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movement, she initiated a Black History Week on her campus through a series of presentations,

Two young elementary aged siblings in China planned a concert of traditional and contemporary Chinese instruments in which they not only planned the concert, they also illustrated invites and posters to promote the concert, but also performed the concert themselves. They raised a significant amount of money in which they donated to a local charity. They have clearly demonstrated that it is possible to make a big difference in one’s local community no matter what your age is.

In Saudi Arabia, a high school student organized a project to collect empty shoeboxes and fill them with toys and gifts and send that along with a letter written by a student at the school to similar aged children at a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. This student also solicited donations from the local community in order to ensure each shoe box was filled with enough gifts for these children. She then traveled with two other UNICEF members to Jordan in order to visit the refugee camps and distribute the gift boxes personally to several children at the camp.

Two students in Sri Lanka designed a highly effective portable solar energy kit to install in economically struggling homes of family which suffered extreme devastation during the 25-year long civil war. The two boys who designed this solar kit crossed cultural barriers to demonstrate empathy and concern for those who are underprivileged. They traveled to this community 8 hours away on their own time in order to deliver and install these kits which provide a sustainable, renewable energy resource for those truly in need. Children in these communities can now study in the evenings with light powered from the solar panels instead of by candle light. These two high schoolers made a tremendous positive impact on the lives of both the young and old in this community who will see ongoing improvements in their quality of life because of the time and efforts of these two young men.

And a final example: two high school students at a school in Bangladesh who were passionate about the arts, started an after-school arts program for children living in poverty in the area nearby to their school. Through their initiative, they created a safe playing and learning environment for other children their age who would otherwise not have access to such learning programs, in addition to creating an opportunity for students at their school to interact with local children coming from a different background of their own. Visual arts, theatre and music were the three areas explored within a global perspective during this after school project. The two student who founded this group also worked with younger students at their school to help them learn about the organizational and logistical aspects of the group so that they could carry this programme on after the girls had graduated.

I recently checked back in with the school’s College Counselor to see if this program was still in operation at their school, and I was happy to hear that indeed, the program is still going strong, even after the founding members have graduated. Around 30 children from the surrounding neighborhood join this weekly program that a current Year 12 student leads. She also organizing fundraising efforts at least twice a year to arrange a delicious feast for these children. There are also several middle school aged students who have carried out similar service projects, as a result of seeing the work the high school students did for and with the surrounding community. Using art and music as a means to communicate and interact with other children in the community as well to increase the self esteem of their peers has been a successful learning program at this school, for everyone involved.

The personal drive to help other people in need and the initiative these students take, whether on the local level or at the level of an international humanitarian crisis, is truly inspirational and heartwarming to read about. Knowing that there are young leaders out there who have a strong heart and mind for service and are willing to step up to make a positive impact on the lives of others who need this help the most keeps me hopeful for the future. CIS is proud to recognize these students as CIS International Student Award winners and we thank our member schools for encouraging and fostering this next generation of global citizens. Look for new information about the CIS International Student award in 2019!

Christy Clabots managed the International Student Awards for 3 years, before starting her new role within CIS as Higher Education Services Coordinator.