This summer PeacePlayers International launched a new Leadership Development Program in the Washington metropolitan area in partnership with adidas Basketball. The following blog is written by PPI coach and coordinator Rochelle Coleman, who recently led the Washington, DC Fellows on an exchange in Israel with PPI – Middle East thanks to the U.S. State Department’s SportsUnited Program.
What is the best way to help cultivate a community mindset? How can one be mindful of their local community as well as the world community; noticing their individuality, but recognizing their influence on one another? And finally, how do we engage the next generation while competing with their smart phones, twitter, and snapchat, to become active members in society?
This summer, PeacePlayers International and adidas Basketball attempted to answer these questions with a brand new Leadership Development Program. For the past few months, 16 high school students from around the Washington, DC metro area have gone all in, from playing basketball to learning about conflict resolution, meeting with local leaders, and even going on a trip to Israel thanks to the State Department! It is easy to be thrown into a new situation and only stick your toe in, but all 16 Fellows dove head first into the program.
I could easily talk about each one of them, but Katie and Hannah, two friends who attend the National Cathedral School, stood out. Throughout all our activities they exemplified the qualities of a leader – showing appreciation and listening, demonstrating respect for the culture, and being assertive especially while helping out the coaches with twinning activities. In Israel, they quickly made friends with the PPI’s Israeli and Palestinian participants, asking questions (a powerful tool for understanding), trying to speak Arabic and Hebrew and actively learning their cultures.
Both listened thoughtfully to the personal stories of how PPI has enriched their lives, and later reflected on the conflict and how incredible it was that a young person like them was willing to take a huge risk to stand up for what they believe in. They easily could have viewed this trip simply as a vacation, but for them to take the time to learn and engage with the local PeacePlayers really elevated their experience.
The other coaches and I were amazed how all 16 participants were willing to leave their comfort zone and go all in – learning that if you become engaged, lift your head away from the screen and venture outside your bubble, you can become a part of an incredible group of changemakers. And they have already begun taking those lessons home, volunteering to help make their communities better.
I am honored to witness their growth as people, and I am sure what they learned and experienced this summer is only the beginning.
The Washington, DC Leadership Development Program is supported by adidas Basketball and the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.