Filipina Student at UNESCO summit in Ottawa

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  • Since January 2017, Yolicia Anne Reyes, an 11th grader from Veritas Catholic School, has been blogging about Global Citizenship, which UNESCO defines as “nurturing respect for all, building a sense of belonging to a common humanity and helping learners become responsible and active global citizens.” Yolicia, already a prolific and and engaging young blogger, found herself immersed in the concept of global citizenship when her principal, Mellissa Espiritu, invited her to participate in an international blogging “marathon” with students from all over the world, diving deep into global issues, thinking critically about local and global situations, and engaging in active peer and mentor dialogue.

    The blogging platform was facilitated by the Canada-based Center for Global Education led by its Executive Director, Terry Godwaldt, also Assistant Principal and teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School in Alberta, Canada. Terry and his team of researchers gathered these young minds online, providing a framework for what will eventually be the final product of all that blogging–the International Youth White Paper on Global Citizenship. It would be a different kind of academic paper, where students collaborate from thinking process, to writing, to presenting the paper to an audience of education policy makers and education leaders attending the week-long UNESCO Conference on Peace and Sustainable Development in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

    Yolicia and her principal flew to Canada to join the final writing team from New Zealand, Kenya, Canada, Slovenia, Sweden, Morocco, and Brazil. The team have met each other online before this, not just in blogs, but in three different video conferences. Yolicia, with another co-writer from Veritas Catholic School, Albrave “Bob” Albayda, spent hours sharing thoughts, ideas, and experiences on local issues, global perspectives, education experiences with their counterparts from the aforementioned countries. Their respective teachers also got to exchange views with one another. Yolicia not only represented the Philippines, but the entire Asian continent in all of the bilateral video conferences, virtual town hall conferences, and eventually the final writing in Canada.

    In the Westin Hotel in Canada, the writing team assembled for three days (even well into the night) to brainstorm on their paper, agree to disagree, and draft their paper under the guidance of researchers from The Center for Global Education. Then, on March 9, the day allotted for sessions on Global Citizenship Education, the students presented their paper to an approving audience of stalwarts in the global education field, many even left teary-eyed upon hearing the wisdom and passion coming from such young voices. It is interesting to note that such a session was a first at UNESCO conferences, in that presenters were still considered “children”, defined as part of the 17-and-under age group (18-35-year-olds are considered “youth”). Sebastien Goupil, Secretary General of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, moved by the presentation, practically resolved that day to continue the practice of including the 17-under-age-group in future UNESCO conferences.

    Like any other teenager, Yoli treasured the new friendships she has made during the week she spent in Canada. With social media, it would be virtually impossible to stop the new friends from all over the globe to continue what they have started. They have opened up endless possibilities for collaboration and communication within diverse ethnic, social and religious backgrounds and assorted points-of-view. Most importantly, Yoli and this young research team have become staunch advocates for global citizenship, a vital ingredient in the relentless pursuit of peace and sustainable development. -Mellissa Espiritu Principal, Veritas Catholic School

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