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World affairs course brings reality home for students
Mikhail Savvateev believes that everyone deserves to have basic needs such as access to clean water. It would seem logical, but in fact people all over the world suffer every day.
Savvateev, a Mercer Island High School junior, and three other MIHS students, junior Neil Datar, sophomore Eric Schulz and sophomore Peter Welch, attended the Global Youth Leadership Institute this summer, which is hosted by the World Affairs Council.
Only 40 students from the Puget Sound area get in to the GYLI each year. All four boys are solid students, gaining entry into the program based on essays they wrote on why they were interested in learning more about world affairs.
Schulz and Welch signed up together, as did Datar and Savvateev. Now all four have become fast friends with even more new friends from the other schools who attended the institute, which is held on the University of Washington campus. The students still communicate through a Facebook group.
The institute, which was held from June 27 to July 1, included real world simulations, such as a conflict between India and Pakistan.
“They taught us multiple perspectives to each issue,” Datar said.
Guest speakers included representatives from the Port of Seattle, Boeing and the CIA, all organizations that deal with international issues in their work, and how they apply knowledge of global issues into their days. The students even met the ex-president of Botswana, his Excellency Festus Gontebanye Mogae.
The students went to the Refugee Project in Seattle and dressed up in various international attire, then walked around downtown Seattle looking for reaction. The boys said that the girls who dressed in full Burqas got the strangest looks. They passed through various stations that simulated the difficulty refugees face.
Now the four students are working on their GYLI project, which is to bring awareness and possibly even raise money for clean water in third world countries. They’ve already contacted a speaker to come to MIHS and talk to interested students, and they hope to organize a fundraiser.
“If this goes well, we’re hoping to have a panel on the Arab spring,” Datar said. “The whole idea of the youth leadership is to keep ourselves and our peers educated about world affairs.”
Welch, who is a member of Leadership Mercer Island, said he got involved because he is interested in what’s going on outside his world.
“Once you see the problems, it’s hard not to fix what’s going on,” he said. “Clean water is one of the biggest things – I think it’s nice to know you can come home and have a cold glass of clean water. On a basic level, everyone needs water.”
Datar agrees, saying that the best way to solve world problems is by keeping people informed.
Savvateev was born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. before he started school. He is interested in Russian news sources and in expanding his knowledge of Russia and Asia.
Datar is concerned about the lack of knowledge, understanding and passion both here and in third world countries.
The boys talked about the UN’s millennium goals, which are supposed to be reached by 2015.
“It’s kind of concerning that they’re not close to solving any of them,” Savvateev said.
Datar said since most people don’t know what the goals are, they don’t know to care.
“We’re lacking a public awareness campaign,” he said, adding that GYLI is trying to bring awareness to several global issues.
To learn more, go to www.world-affairs.org/global-youth-leadership-institute.