In 2008, Lucas and Jasper Oshun founded Global Student Embassy (GSE) as a way to combine their understanding of an interconnected global community with their commitment to youth empowerment and grassroots social change.
In an effort to redefine the way we look at ‘international relations’, the Oshun brothers created an innovative program model that combines reciprocal international service-learning exchanges with year-round local programming that focuses on youth empowerment, leadership, and stewardship. The goal is to cultivate socially constructive relationships amongst the world’s youth through inquiry based workshops, international travel, and community development projects.
During GSE’s formative years, student participants, locally and internationally, expressed increased awareness of environmental and agricultural issues facing their communities. Each year, programming became more focused on correcting environmental and sustainability problems, until the topics became a corner stone of GSE’s program model. The focus on the environment and organic agriculture is a crucial component of the program because:
- the issues are real and urgent;
- the topics are typically excluded from public school education;
- the challenges can be straightforwardly addressed with tangible projects and products.
GSE began in the Oshun brothers’ hometown of Sebastopol, California and has since expanded to include over 7 high schools in California and over 10 high schools internationally. In the organization’s first 4 years, GSE organized reciprocal exchanges between Tanzania, Argentina and Peru while running year-round high school programs in Northern California. GSE lobbied for, raised funds for, designed and created mini-farms at numerous high schools where healthy and sustainable cultivation practices are taught and implemented. In Sebastopol, the yield from their founding garden, the Village Park Community Garden, has been donated to local food banks providing much needed healthy produce for at-risk citizens. GSE has worked collaboratively with founding partnering communities on international projects, including the construction of a canal in Zurite, Peru to bring a consistent water supply to fields effected by seasonal drought.
Currently, GSE programs are run in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Northern California using a unified program model and approach. In each community there is a local director who facilitates year-round workshops and projects with local students. Each of the international communities participate in reciprocal cultural exchange visits to Northern California during the winter months and host traveling America students during spring break exchange programs.
Global Student Embassy is a simple idea that uses the increasing interconnectedness of the world to connect small communities. The issues that students have identified in their communities are also global issues. Students who live worlds apart are on the same page concerning these very important issues despite the differences in their cultures. Through learning cultural differences, engaging in public service and sharing positive experiences, GSE aims to cultivate young global citizens who feel empowered to create positive change in their local and international communities.