Nine collegiate and professional international visitors from Saudi Arabia participated in a multi-city tour of the United States through a project titled “Young Community, Economic, and Social Leaders RISE: Renew, Innovate, Serve, and Empower.” The State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) sponsored the project and, in collaboration with the Graduate School USA, the project team set up meetings, site visits, and activities in which visitors examined strategies for facilitating political participation, small business development, civil society expansion, and grassroots engagement.
The project began in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, where the group met with accreditation analyst, Paul Weissburg, from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, to speak to the visitors about the U.S. Federal system. The “lecture explained everything I needed to know about the USA,” expressed one visitor at the end of their visit. They interacted with representatives of private and public sector organizations in Los Angeles, California; Reno, Nevada; Manchester, New Hampshire; and New York City. They witnessed first-hand how the United States, at all levels, views and promotes leadership, strategic planning, advocacy, social media, volunteerism and more.
Jordan Blumenthal, staff assistant to Congressman Patrick Murphy, engaged the group in a lively discussion about congressional duties and the system of Federalism in the United States. The visitors walked away with a detailed understanding of how the U.S. government works.
In Los Angeles, the visitors found the accomplishments of Homeboy Industries (a safe haven for former gang members) so moving that they wanted to re-visit and possibly volunteer in the future. Many of the visitors admired the dedication and awareness of Americans towards volunteerism. They found Inner City Arts, an organization that uses art to prevent disadvantaged school children from getting involved with drugs or gangs, extremely compelling. Latifah, a visitor from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, plans to implement the same concept in her own neighborhood. The visitors witnessed innovative practices and ideas that they may replicate in their home country.
From fostering alliances to leadership and strategic planning, these rising young leaders of Saudi Arabia truly imbibed the “renew, innovate, serve and empower” theme of this project.