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Leadership Development

Peace Makers and Problem Solvers: Uniting High-School Students in the U.S. and Abroad for Community Involvement and Virtual Exchange Real-Life Experiences 










 

Poolesville High School PMPS students 

Poolesville, MD - USA 

2018-2019

In 2018, The Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) launched Peace Makers and Problem Solvers (PMPS).  PMPS is a leadership development program that equips educators with tools and resources to implement a curriculum in their classrooms or clubs focusing on leadership development and problem-solving skills while connecting students with their peers in conflict-affected countries.

  

Through PMPS, young leaders learn to create and implement a meaningful project as they: 

  • Identify humanitarian or social issues within their communities. 

  • Explore positive options and debate the issues from different perspectives. 

  • Determine how to effectively utilize resources. 

  • Set goals to establish a course of action for a meaningful project.

 

PMPS participants are encouraged to think critically about the world around them and experience a life-changing cultural exchange with a focus on team building, leadership, peace building, problem solving, and other critical life skills.  Participants from both countries collaborate to identify and discuss community needs in order to design and implement their social impact project and address those needs to better their own communities.

 

The goals of PMPS are to empower young people to: 

  • Work collaboratively with other young people in order to achieve a common goal. 

  • Learn about different perspectives to gain empathy and to reduce bias. 

  • Learn and understand their community social realities and the reality of their international peers. 

  • Learn project management skills to address common social issues impacting their communities. 

  • Engage virtually with their international peers to build trust and friendship while developing an understanding of other cultures. 

  • Realize the role they play as agents of change for humanitarian and social issues in need of a solution. 

Colombian and US youth connecting for social good! 

Many young people around the world face social challenges. Youth in Colombia's socioeconomically vulnerable municipalities face a myriad of complex social issues. Their communities grapple with the adverse impact left behind by the country’s 50-year civil conflict. Challenges include violence, social inequality, poverty, and the presence of armed actors and illicit economies, leading communities to face a heightened risk of the locals succumbing to the ever-present violent extremism surrounding them. While their communities may appear different, youth in the U.S. also face many challenges, including gun violence, bullying, education inequality, and an increasingly divided society. 

PMPS participants explore possible options, debate the issues from different perspectives, determine how to effectively utilize resources, and set goals to establish a course of action for the project implementation. Students are encouraged to think critically about the world around them and gain real-life experience in conversing, brainstorming, and implementing solutions to problems with peers in countries like Colombia. 

At MLI, we firmly believe that young people have the potential to affect positive change in their communities. Provided with encouragement, skills, and practical hands-on experiences, we have witnessed the ability of young people to play a role in the betterment of their communities. To date, MLI has paired schools in Poolesville, MD and Towson, MD with school communities in Antioquia, Colombia from the Uraba Region: Diocesano Laura Montoya School, in the municipality of Chigorodó, and La Provincia and El Cerro schools, both in the municipality of Carepa. More than 100 students and teachers from Colombia and the United States have completed the PMPS curriculum, engaging with their international peers, and implementing youth-led projects that have impacted over 800 community members in both countries. Such youth-led projects have addressed bullying and mental health through campaigns in their school communities, taught socio-emotional skills to elementary school students to prevent violence and promote peace, highlighted food insecurity through digital campaigns, promoted positive health habits to fellow community members, and delivered workshops to promote an equitable and peaceful school environment. 

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Poolesville High School 

Poolesville, MD 

USA

Diocesano Laura Montoya School 

Chigorodó, Antioquia 

Colombia 

La Provincia School 

Carepa, Antioquia 

Colombia 

Sheppard Pratt School 

Towson, MD 

USA 

El Cerro School 

Carepa, Antioquia 

Colombia 

WHAT DOES PMPS OFFER STUDENTS? 

  • Development of life skills such as empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, teambuilding, social responsibility, and leadership. 

  • Communication skills for meaningful cross-cultural dialogue and collaboration. 

  • Community awareness, research, and engagement.   

  • Project management skills through practical learning application. 

PMPS leaders at El Cerro School designing their own workshop sessions to help their fellow students better recognize and manage their emotions through science experiments. 

La Provincia PMPS students working in their gathering information of their local community’s resources and unique assets. 

Poolesville High School participants leading teamwork and problem-solving activities to elementary school students 

Sheppard Pratt's PMPS students collecting items to provide 225 backpacks full of necessary supplies to under-resourced neighboring schools. 

The program has been meaningful to both the U.S. and Colombian students and teachers.

“PMPS has been a meaningful program for both the students and me. The program helps to instill the value of teamwork, something that is so important for teens and young adults to learn. PMPS has given me the opportunity to work with students who I feel really benefit from exposure to other cultures and the task of producing a project to help the community. This has given the kids a chance to see how other people in the world live. The projects make the kids, and me, feel like they are really making a difference in the community. For most of my students, this program is the first time they’re ever felt like they’ve made a difference or that their ideas are being heard. It is so nice to see their excitement in coming up with ideas, and the dedication they show while following through with them. I think that PMPS will leave a lasting impression on the students, and I hope that the program will continue to grow. Personally, I enjoyed the exchange of culture between the students. It is amazing seeing how much can get done when working together with a shared goal." 

Teacher Shannon Shaw 

Sheppard Pratt School 

Towson, MD 

USA 

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"PMPS has been an opportunity to examine my own community and think of ways to address the issues that are important to me. It also helps me learn more about the world and different cultures and perspectives within it." 

Student Abigail Hoy 

Poolesville High School 

Poolesville, MD 

USA 

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“PMPS provides learning to enhance leadership in young people, giving them the opportunity to identify problems or social conflicts." She values PMPS because "you learn, with boys and girls, to respect the benefits of co-creation; you gain new knowledge through teamwork." 

Student Brigitte Reyes 

La Provincia School 

Carepa, Antioquia 

Colombia 

Peace Makers and Problem Solvers has also been adapted to connect U.S. high-school students through a summer virtual exchange version. 

In summer 2020, MLI offered a modified PMPS virtual exchange program connecting American high school students with peers in Yemen. Participants from both countries learned leadership, conflict resolution and project management skills. MLI facilitated virtual calls for all students to jointly learn the curriculum, to develop and implement small service-learning projects having positive and peaceful actions in their communities, and to foster meaningful connections between students of both cultures. 

Peace Makers Yemen students participating in a weekly call, using masks to help contain the spread of COVID 19 

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