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SUNY Plattsburgh, PAGE Inc. Awarded $330,000 State Department Grant

Sixty youth and adults from sub-Saharan Africa will be visiting Plattsburgh next year as part of a new U.S. State Department, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs grant.

The $330,000 grant, which was awarded to SUNY Plattsburgh and the Program for African Growth through Education — also known as PAGE Inc. — was the only one of its kind to have been given this year. It will fund the Youth Leadership Program with Francophone Africa.

Designed to enrich the experience of Francophone African youth and adults through two three-week exchanges, this program will bring 30 individuals from Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to Plattsburgh in March 2012 and an additional 30 from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Mauritania in September 2012.

The visitors will take part in lessons and activities that address the themes of youth leadership, culture, team-building, community mapping, civic responsibility, ethics, American government and community service. They’ll take field trips to local schools, non-profit organizations and governmental offices. They’ll even take a bus trip to Albany and Washington, D.C., to see state and federal governments at work. Then they will develop six community service projects, which will be implemented when they get back to Africa.

“Because PAGE is fundamentally concerned with literacy, we are hopeful that most of the community service projects will focus on education,” said Marguerite Adelman, director of graduate admissions for SUNY Plattsburgh and curriculum consultant for the Youth Leadership Program. “PAGE not only will stay in touch with our community service teams in Africa, but also will provide support and ongoing guidance.”

As part of the experience in the United States, the visitors will stay in homes throughout Plattsburgh.

“Through home stays, participants will be able to see first-hand what it is like to live in an American home,” said Dr. Bryan Higgins, director of international education at SUNY Plattsburgh. “At the same time, they will be sharing their cultural background, enriching the lives of members of the Plattsburgh community.

“This Youth Leadership award establishes exciting new standards for integrating participatory democracy, community service-learning and youth leadership into a global citizenship framework,” Higgins said.

Dr. Jean Ouédraogo — a professor and chair of foreign languages and literature; an associate of Canadian studies;  the board president of PAGE Inc.; and the director of the Youth Leadership Program — said that he and Adelman applied for the grant despite short deadlines and long odds because “of our belief that enriching the learning and teaching experiences of communities near and far can contribute to a better understanding of Plattsburgh's connectedness to the world out there and our region's role in shaping it.”

Adelman agreed.

“When Jean shared the RFP for this grant with me, I knew that it was an opportunity for PAGE and SUNY Plattsburgh to build mutually beneficial connections with Africa and to put together an enriching program for youth and adults from both Africa and the North Country of New York.”

Ouédraogo also sees the exchanges as a boost to the local economy and an opportunity for local language and social studies teachers “to engage their students and their visiting peers in an enlightening give and take” —  one that can be both linguistically and culturally rewarding.

To learn about hosting a Francophone African youth or adult, contact Theresa Bennett, home stay coordinator, at 518-564-2160. For more information about the Youth Leadership Program and how to get involved, contact Amy Sotherden, project coordinator, at 518-564-2385. 

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