American India Foundation (AIF) Youth Summit

Dear Savvy Readers!

I apologize for not having written in a while. School, with all the students’ end of year goings-on, does in fact get really busy towards the end of the year, and unfortunately one of my favorite activities, that is, blogging, got left and neglected at the bottom of the to-do list.

I’ve been meaning to fill everyone in on an inspiring event that took place at Menlo School at the end of April. Thanks to Menlo’s Global Programs’ partnership with the American India Foundation (AIF), a group of students from India and Pakistan came to visit our campus along with their teachers. The event was also largely supported by the communities at Castilleja School, Woodside Priory, and a few other Bay Area schools. Students stayed with host families from our school community and got to know the Bay Area. Their visit culminated with our Saturday event- a youth summit during which Menlo students engaged in cultural interchange with our new friends.

The 4+ hour program focused on cultural exchange through dance, art and youth leadership through team building. We started with a welcome speech, expressing Menlo’s excitement that the big day had finally arrived- the long awaited day on which the students could finally meet each other. Having introduced themselves electronically on YouTube, the kids were excited to meet! Students engaged in name-game scavenger hunts over an East-West lunch– American deli sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies alongside massive trays of samosas with tamarind dipping sauce. All my favorite foods on one table!

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The artistic portion of the program commenced with the presentation of beautiful songs from our visitors.

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Then, our dance girls performed the Bollywood dance they had been studying in Menlo’s dance program.

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After the dance, we engaged in friendly competitive team building activities to see which combined groups of new friends could complete the activities faster, for example, building paper towers.

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My favorite portion of the day was the art activity. Everyone collaborated with their new friends to create a lasting piece of art work in our new art studio. The tapestries have since dried, and we will be turning their photographs into stationary sets, so that the students can continue their conversations even though the youth summit has ended.

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Menlo’s dance team closed the day by getting everyone up and doing the dance from Footloose. It was a great way to end the day on a casual note.

The Menlo – AIF 2014 Youth Summit was the culmination of more than 18 months of planning and communication between both parties. When President Clinton founded AIF in 2001, one of his goals was to promote the relationship between the world’s two largest democracies. True to typical “teacher form,” I insist that the best way to promote dialogue, mutual support and cultural appreciation is through youth- the success of our event proving the long-held truth that children forge friendships faster than adults, and that they are the ideal channel through which to strengthen cultural exchange between nations.

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I’ll keep you posted as we plan a sequel event for the near future!

You can see all of my photos from the event here on my Google+ page along with the videos on my YouTube account.

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