As the school year concludes and summer travels commence, I want to recognize and thank the first cohort of 100,000 Strong Foundation Student Ambassadors. This is an amazing group of young Americans from diverse backgrounds whose China experience will pay dividends in their academic and professional lives, and in strengthening the US-China relationship in the future.
This year’s cohort was comprised of 75 students, ranging in age from 16 to 27. They come from across the United States, from inner cities to small towns, in states from Pennsylvania to Nevada, Massachusetts to Georgia, and everywhere in between. They are enrolled in a wide range of academic institutions, from high schools, community colleges, and top universities. These students, who have all studied Mandarin or studied in China (or both!), are truly the best messengers of our mission to strengthen US-China relations on the grassroots level. We have deployed them in their hometowns and on their home campuses to encourage more young people to develop the skills necessary to compete and collaborate in a globalized world.
Chinese and American students, including four 100K Strong Foundation Student Ambassadors, present on a panel chaired by Ford Foundation President Darren Walker at the 100K Strong Nov. 2013 Conference at American University
100K Strong Foundation Student Ambassadors are asked to complete projects that promote US-China educational exchange based on their personal experiences. I am so proud of what they accomplished this year. 100K Strong Foundation Student Ambassadors have hosted study abroad panels, written articles about their time in China for local newspapers, launched a pen pal program, visited local classrooms, and even organized a contemporary Chinese film festival.
One Washington, DC public school teacher told us that she struggles to help her students understand the value of memorizing characters and practicing tones. Yet after a 100K Strong Foundation Student Ambassador visited her class in March, the attitude of her students changed completely. Hearing about the trajectory that this 100K Strong Foundation Student Ambassador’s life has taken since living in China—the friendships made, the leadership skills gained, the challenges overcome, and the career opportunities discovered—motivated the students and provided a context for their studies.
As Benjamin Brooks, a 100K Strong Foundation Student Ambassador and African-American undergraduate student from Houston, TX, eloquently states: “Ignorance of another’s culture could lead to the creation of negative stereotypes, which in the long run can be detrimental to how a group of people is viewed. Study abroad allows for people to learn about another culture and spread that knowledge to others in an effort to bring countries closer together.”
100K Strong Foundation Student Ambassadors are nominated by our partner organizations, outstanding non-profits working to increase access for students underrepresented in study abroad. We are currently selecting our second cadre of Signature Partners, which we will announce in September.
From the environment to public health to security, critical challenges face the US and China. By investing in students, we invest in the capacity of the world’s greatest powers to turn these challenges into platforms for innovation and mutual trust. Please join me in congratulating the first cohort of 100K Strong Foundation Student Ambassadors as they undertake this vital mission!
Thanks for your support,
President & CEO