Over the past four years, The Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) has been implementing Peace Makers and Problem Solvers (PMPS), a youth development and virtual exchange program designed to engage young people in the U.S. and conflict-affected countries so they can jointly learn and enhance leadership skills, foster community engagement, promote social cohesion and develop a network of committed and open-minded young leaders who work collaboratively on community service-learning projects.
Through the MLI-developed curriculum, PMPS teaches participating students critical thinking, leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills, as well as other critical life skills through a variety of activities in order to take positive and peaceful action for the betterment of their local communities. Each PMPS cohort involves a U.S. based school and a school overseas. The cohorts learn the curriculum and come together for virtual exchange calls to discuss the activities, learn about each other’s communities, engage in constructive cross-cultural dialogue, and share the progress of their service-learning projects.
We firmly believe that young people have the potential to effect positive and meaningful change in their communities. Provided with encouragement, skills and practical hands-on experiences, we have witnessed firsthand the ability of young people to play a role in the betterment of their communities. To date, almost 200 students and teachers from Colombia, Yemen, and the United States have learned the PMPS experiential learning model, implemented projects to address social issues and impacted their communities in a positive way. Such projects have addressed bullying and mental health issues, taught socio-emotional skills to elementary school aged students, highlighted food insecurity, promoted healthy habits amongst community members, spearheaded recycling campaigns, and more. These youth-led projects have impacted almost 900 community members, promoting continued positive growth for many.
The power of our youth to address critical needs in their communities and abroad has been heartwarming to see.
Colombia has suffered from intense, armed conflicts for much of its history, and the many years of conflict have negatively impacted the people in Colombia, as they must grapple with the adverse impacts derived from the country’s 50-year civil conflict. These accumulated and emerging challenges include violence, social inequality, poverty, and the presence of armed actors and illicit economies, among others. However, these circumstances also magnify the role young people can play by becoming strategic actors of change and altering the vision and trajectory of their communities to one of peace and prosperity.
Therefore, by providing youth in Colombia with educational training processes and providing real-life experiences, we have encouraged youth to shape the future of their countries and become active agents of change. Through cultural exposure with U.S. youth, together they have gained a better understanding of the challenges in other countries and learned the similarities and differences.
Meaningful cross-cultural interactions and collaboration create conditions that restore hope while nurturing peace and stability in countries affected by conflict.
Providing Colombian youth with the opportunity to design and implement their own grass-root projects has helped them acquire the essential skills needed to act with confidence, empathy, and awareness. By enabling youth to effect positive transformations, youth have found their voice as leaders and learned the needed traits to work toward the betterment of their communities, as well as their own future plans.
Youth in Colombia are actively strengthening their communities from the inside out.
Positive social change can be achieved through the action and commitment not only of youth working together to make a difference, but by everyone else willing to join efforts helping to bridge the gap between education and future leadership and providing high school students the opportunity to learn transformational leadership skills through practical application.
Link here to help expanding leadership and problem-solving skills and empowering youth in Colombia and the U.S. to rise above surrounding pressures, and to support a culture of engaged youth committed to a lifetime of service.