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  • Writer's pictureAbby Fowler

Supporting Education Reform and Positive Youth Development: A Project for Armenia

From November 20th to the 25th, we hosted a delegation from Armenia in eastern Iowa for a program titled, “Supporting Education Reform and Positive Youth Development.” This program aimed to expose participants to emerging classroom instructional practices, after school academic enrichment programs, and programs focused on youth development and career readiness.

The delegation arrived the afternoon of Sunday, November 20th, and had the evening and the next morning to explore and become acquainted with the area.

After lunch on the 21st, the delegation kicked off their Iowa meetings with a tour of Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. Four students gave the visitors a tour of the school and then they met Julie Cain, Assistant Principal, who discussed teacher training, extracurricular activities, and other school-related policies. Global Ties Iowa director Amy Alice Chastain accompanied them on the meeting and tour of the school.

Meeting with with members of the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Board of Education at Liberty High School.

Following this meeting, the delegation traveled back to the Iowa City area for a meeting at Liberty High School in North Liberty. They met with members of the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Board of Education, including Liberty High School Principal Justin Colbert, Board of Directors Vice President Lisa Williams, and Board Member Jayne Finch. Accompanied by volunteer Horacio Borgen, they toured the high school and learned about the School Board’s role in creating and maintaining educational policy.

The next morning, the delegation visited Iowa City High School accompanied by volunteer Ashley Laux. There, they met with Dominic Audia, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Curriculum Coordinator and Computer Science Curriculum Coordinator, to learn about CTE programs offered at the ICCSD’s high schools. They also toured the school and visited the industrial technology lab, the food lab, and the engineering classes.

Touring United Action for Youth's art center.

After a break for lunch, the delegation visited United Action for Youth (UAY) in Iowa City. This nonprofit works with young people and their families through prevention and intervention services to help them reach their goals. They met with the Intervention Program Director Amy Kahle, Executive Director Talia Meidlinger and Prevention Director, Kylie Buddin to discuss the management and implementation of the UAY’s several youth-oriented programs. After this tour, the group boarded a bus to the UAY’s main offices about 10 minutes away to meet with Business Director Genevieve Anglin, Community Engagement Coordinator Dustin Eubanks, and Crisis and Advocacy Coordinator Arianna Aron to talk about their roles at UAY.

Following another break, the group concluded their day with a visit to the Kalona Historical Village. They learned the basic beliefs of the Mennonite faith at the Conservative Mennonite Program and learned about the construction of a custom Amish buggy at the Kalona Buggy Shop.

“[The] visit to Amish community was [a] very unique experience for me. It was a very unique place to discover as it is very idfferent to hear and to see how the people live and what they believe,” wrote participant Gohar Mamikonyan.

Meeting with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County.

The next morning, the delegation met with Executive Director Daleta Thurness at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County. They learned about how the organization pairs adult volunteers with children (ages 6-18) in need of a mentor as part of an effort to help struggling young people develop meaningful friendships and achieve their goals.

Right after, they boarded a bus and headed to do community service at the CommUnity Food Pantry, a division of the CommUnity Crisis Center. Alongside frequent volunteers, they performed a wide range of tasks, including stocking shelves, assisting clients, and helping with data entry. After returning to their hotel, the group had the rest of the afternoon and evening free.

The next day was Thanksgiving! 3 members of the delegation spent their afternoon at the home of Executive Director Amy Alice Chastain and her Estonian exchange student Maria Ounap, and the other 5 members went to the home of Board Member Newman Abuissa. They enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast and learned about the holiday.

Iowa Table Dinner hosted by Board Member Newman Abuissa.

“Home hospitality was superb! Great food and relaxed conversation,” wrote interpreter Artur Hakobyan.

The next day, the delegation departed eastern Iowa in the afternoon.

“My overall experience in Iowa City was positive,” said participant Gohar Mamikonyan.

“The visitors had excellent opportunities to get acquainted [with] school systems in Iowa,” commented interpreter Artem Mkrtchyan.

Thank you to Washington High School, Iowa City Community School District Board of Education, Dominic Audia, United Action for Youth, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County for being professional resources for this program!

We would also like to thank Amy Alice Chastain, Arnold Daniels Jr., Horacio Borgen, Ashley Laux, Maria Ounap, and Newman Abuissa for your hospitality and showing this delegation the meaning of “Iowa Nice!”

“All volunteers who worked with our group were very nice people,” said interpreter Artur Hakobyan.


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