MI students intern with Israel education nonprofit. From left: Grace Gottesman, Carmel Alon (StandWithUs Pacific Northwest high school coordinator) and Maya Sulkin. Photo courtesy of StandWithUs.

MI students intern with Israel education nonprofit. From left: Grace Gottesman, Carmel Alon (StandWithUs Pacific Northwest high school coordinator) and Maya Sulkin. Photo courtesy of StandWithUs.

MI students intern with StandWithUs

Israel education nonprofit hopes to educate and combat anti-Semitism and extremism.

Many local high school students are seeking internships, whether it’s to boost their college application, a school requirement, or just to expand their understanding of something they like.

For Grace Gottesman of Mercer Island High School and Maya Sulkin of Seattle Academy, partaking in an internship is an opportunity to expand their understanding and enhance their skills.

The two Mercer Island-based students have just begun their year-long internship with StandWithUs, an international nonprofit Israel education organization.

StandWithUs has 18 locations throughout the world, including one in Seattle, StandWithUs Northwest.

Founded in 2001, the Israel educational organization works to educate people of all ages about Israel and combat anti-Semitism and extremism.

Through organized programs, speakers, conferences, missions to Israel, campaigns, social media and other Internet resources, including educational films, the organization strives to ensure the story of Israel’s achievements and ongoing challenges is told in middle schools, high schools, colleges and communities around the world.

Randy Kessler, StandWithUs Northwest’s executive director, said the it’s all about providing proactive and reactive education. For him, it’s important that people have a clear and unbiased understanding of Israel and related topics such as the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“We just want to present people with the facts of Israel. We’re not trying to get anyone to be on our side—we just want to present people with the facts so there’s more understanding of both sides,” he said.

StandWithUs opened internships to high school students in 2012. The internship is a leadership program that prepares students for the challenges they may face regarding Israel in college and in their communities.

Students can apply for the internships regardless of religion or race. The internships are open to anyone interested in learning more about Israel and wanting to participate in positive campaigns.

Students participate in a year-long program that includes two national conferences, ongoing educational online workshops, and they receive guidance and funding to run programming in their high schools and youth groups.

As part of their internship, Gottesman and Sulkin are participating in organizing events that educate the public. Upon completion of the program, interns should be able to comfortably take the reins of leadership when they start college, and they will be automatically part of the StandWithUs alumni network, which helps them continue their Israel advocacy efforts.

“The program has taught us a lot and it’s great because it’s so unbiased. We’ve learned how to exchange information with other people about a kind of sensitive subject,” Gottesman said.

After their internship, the students are looking forward to bringing their skills to their schools and to college.

“It’s been great to have intelligent conversations about this and having the ability to share opinions in a school setting,” Sulkin said.

“A goal of mine is to help other kids learn and understand Israel because they don’t really get a chance to hear about it until late high school. I hope to be able to help implement some kind of Israel curriculum at MIHS,” Gottesman said.

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