ECA’s Virtual Sports Visitor Alumni Summit Connects Youth from 18 Countries around the Globe

July 30, 2021

This month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Sports Diplomacy Division, in conjunction with FHI 360, kicked off its Virtual Sports Visitor Youth Alumni Summit with participation from approximately 40 youth athlete alumni representing 18 countries around the world. The Summit provides an opportunity for youth to connect on sports related issues that are relevant in today’s world. The summit included seminars on diversity and inclusion, mindfulness and mental health, leadership and teamwork, adaptive sports, and sports nutrition and health.

Given the complexities around social issues, the session on diversity and inclusion was particularly impactful. A facilitator with RISE, a non-profit organization working to improve race relations in the sports community, guided the participants through an interactive session focused on effective methods for community building with the goal of promoting racial equity and cultural competence.

At the beginning of the session, participants were separated into groups and asked to build a virtual trophy. Once the exercise was done, the facilitator solicited feedback on the process. While they were ultimately successful, a few participants mentioned at times it was challenging to work together due to differing opinions on how to complete the task. The facilitator used the discussion as a starting point to describe the concept of community building. He explained that within a community, everyone has a role to play. There are many types of communities in which people belong including family, race, religion, and sports but everyone must all acknowledge the contributions that each person as an individual brings to the table regardless of their differences.

Participants were encouraged to think about the roles they play and how they can contribute to the development of communities they care most about. A student attendee said, “I think a sense of community is important because it allows us to feel like one whole and it puts on us some responsibility, so we are more inclusive. If we feel left outside, we don’t feel any responsibility for our community, and I think that it's actually leaders and everybody in the group’s responsibility to make others feel welcome in the group.”

This session, like others in the three-week Virtual Sports Visitor Youth Alumni Summit, furthers ECA goals. Sport has the ability to increase dialogue and cultural understanding between people around the world. The Sports Diplomacy Division uses sports as a platform to expose foreign participants to American culture while providing them with an opportunity to establish links with U.S. sports professionals and peers. In turn, Americans learn about foreign cultures and the challenges young people from other countries face today.

Striving to reflect the diversity of the United States and global society, ECA programs, funding, and other activities encourage the involvement of American and international participants from traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities.

To learn more about ECA’s Sports Diplomacy Division, follow them on Twitter @SportsDiplomacy.

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