Hi, I’m Maya Shook, and I’m the Programming and Curriculum Fellow at Global Minds. This week, I talked with the co-founders of the Lewisburg Area High School Global Minds chapter, senior/President Hanna Aboueid, and sophomore/Vice President Suzie Vo. We discuss what it’s like to start a chapter in a small, rural town and hear about how they are staying connected with their chapter during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks, Hanna and Suzie, for sharing your wisdom and experience!
How did you first hear about Global Minds What made you decide you wanted to start a chapter at your school?
Hanna: Ever since my sophomore year, I have wanted to implement an Islamophobia awareness event at my school. After talking to my school counselor and a couple of teachers, I figured that the easiest way to get it done was by tying it to another project. Particularly, one that would last beyond me, address more than just Islamophobia, and that more students could be involved with. With that in mind, Suzie brought to my attention a Global Minds chapter that one of her friends in Pittsburgh started. After learning more about the initiative and seeing how it champions diversity, inclusivity, and education. Suzie and I thought it would be a much-needed addition to our school’s list of extracurriculars.
What was the process of starting a Global Minds chapter at your school? What challenges did you run into?
Hanna: The most frustrating part of the process was how long it took. I remember wanting to get the chapter started right away. As I came to learn, the process of starting up a chapter is multifaceted and time-consuming, though Suad and others on the GM team made sure the process wasn’t a difficult one! Living in a small, rural town in central PA, we were worried about there not being enough interest in the club. Fortunately, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of support it got, both from the student body and faculty members. One thing that we had to consider is making sure we’re not misconstruing specific perspectives while doing some curriculum-based activities because diverse voices aren’t present in the room. Also, living in a small town has made things like educational field trips and other real-world opportunities more scarce.
Do you have any advice for students who want to start a Global Minds chapter at their school?
Suzie: If you are looking to start a Global Minds chapter at your school, reach out to people beforehand and tell them what the initiative is about! Hanna and I found it much easier to get our group started when we had already formed a group of our friends who were interested in participating. Also, talk to your teachers! Let them know that there’s a Global Minds chapter at your school and ask them if they want to get involved! It wasn’t until over halfway through this school year that Hanna and I found out that one of our teachers was trying to start an ESL tutoring program at our school. She had been trying to get together a group of Native English Speaking students who were willing to help, but she didn’t know where to look. It is so important to reach out to your peers and teachers because not only can you get more people involved in Global Minds, but they can also help you find ways to get involved in your school!
How has Global Minds impacted your high school experience?
Suzie: We are from a tiny, rural town that is quite isolated from diversity. And, since our high school has a small percentage of students from racial and religious minorities, I was worried that a Global Minds chapter at our school would not receive much support. However, as soon as Hanna and I started our Global Minds group, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of students that wanted to get involved. Global Minds has changed the way I view my small town by showing me that inclusivity can be achieved anywhere, as long as people are willing to fight for it.
What has social distancing been like for you? Have you found any ways to engage with your chapter virtually? If so, how?
Suzie: Although social distancing is certainly not how I envisioned spending the second half of my sophomore year, it has proven to be a very eye-opening experience for me. Social distancing has made me realize the importance of intentional communication. When we aren’t able to see our friends every day at school, it can be easy to lose touch, but lately, I have been learning to make more of a consistent effort to reach out to people I care about. It has also been fun experimenting with new ways to keep in touch (my personal favorites are group Zoom calls and old-school letter writing)! Hanna and I have been holding weekly meetings for our Global Minds chapter over Zoom, which has been a pretty effective way of keeping our group engaged! We have been doing discussion-based activities as well as encouraging our group members to participate in some form of self-care. Most recently, we asked everyone to do an independent 15-20 minute SENSE walk to take some time to clear our minds of everything that is going on in the news and to instead focus on our environments.
What are your plans after high school?
Hanna: I plan to further my education at Brown University next year and hopefully go into neuroscience or law. No matter what academic path I choose, I plan on staying politically active, because attempting to ensure that the society I live in is a just one is a prerequisite to any of my other plans.