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High Noon

 Barry Dequanne, American School of Brasilia, Brazil

How do you inspire a generation of students to make a difference?  Simple – publish a book that details the problems of the near future students will face, while underscoring the importance of immediate action.  This is just what Jean-Francois Rischard, a Luxembourgian economist, did through the 2002 publication of his seminal book, High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them.  Though he probably did not realize it at the time, his book has served as the catalyst for today’s student-led Global Initiatives Network (GIN).

GIN was founded on the belief that the future belongs to the youth and that complex problems require creative and comprehensive solutions, which can only be realized through effective communication and cooperation. The purpose of GIN is to empower students to collaborate locally and globally to find solutions to the most pressing global problems we face today.

Last week, a team of EAB students and advisors traveled to Quito, Ecuador, to participate in the South America Quito 2013 GIN Conference and work with other students towards finding solutions to the challenges outlined in High Noon.  While Jean-Francois Rischard could not attend the conference, he did send a video recording to share his most recent thoughts associated with our global challenges.  Mr. Rischard frames our future using the modified Dickensian phrase, “it will be the best of times and the worst of times”.  While his work as the World Bank’s vice president for Europe from 1998 to 2005 provided Mr. Rischard with a unique perspective on the future, I do hope he is wrong about what will constitute the “worst of times”, as outlined in his video.

It is my optimistic belief that the “worst of times” will be avoided, not due to a naive, Pollyannaish view of the future, but rather through the conviction and actions of organizations, such as GIN, that support and empower students to make a positive difference.  As Margaret Mead states, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

At last week’s GIN conference, a “small group of thoughtful and committed EAB students and advisors” contributed to the collaborative dialogues towards solving societies greatest challenges.  Our students, buoyed by EAB’s whole child education, which focuses on leadership and environmental stewardship, arts and activities, and academic excellence, represented our community at the highest level of achievement.  From EAB Goes Green to the Eduartes program, a student initiative to provide Brazilian public school classes with arts education, EAB’s students are applying their leadership skills in an effort to solve both local and global problems.

It is true that the road ahead is fraught with challenges and the end of Mr. Rishard’s twenty-year window is fast approaching.  However, it is possible for the “best of times” to still be before us through the concerted efforts of adults in conjunction with the realization of whole-child educational programs and the support of important organizations, such as GIN, where students are empowered to affect positive change.

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