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Friends without borders
Taria Pritchett (center), a UD alumna, author and teacher at Mt. Pleasant High School served as Peer Mentor to UD Mandela Washington Fellows Faith Wariri (Nigeria) and Cisse Bintou (Cote D'Ivoire).

Friends Without Borders

Photo by Nikki Laws

Young global leaders forge friendships with local American community

Thomas and Edith Grant, who have hosted international participants from the Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) at the University of Delaware in their home for the past four years, can recite exactly what each of their “host daughters” are doing to impact their home communities today.

Some of their host daughters are molding young minds in classrooms. Others are pursuing medical degrees or helping to negotiate peace among their country’s youth.

The Grant family make up only two of the more than 40 local community members who have volunteered as host families or peer collaborators for two of UD’s U.S. Department of State international exchange programs this summer.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered at UD by the Institute for Global Studies, the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders on Women’s Leadership  and Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders bring 40-plus young global leaders from sub-Saharan Africa to Delaware for five-week academic and leadership development programs. The programs increase mutual understanding and create lasting ties between the people of the United States and Africans.

UD’s 20 SUSI Women Leaders were each paired with an American host family for a weekend, where they enjoyed home-cooked meals and learned more about life in the United States. “It was very exciting spending time with the Grants because I learned a lot from them,” said Luna Kiazolu from Liberia, adding that the experience gave her a much-needed dose of inspiration. “They challenged us to explore new ideas and asked us to express ourselves. They taught us to be bold.”

According to Robertline M. Blamo, another SUSI participant from Liberia, the Grants hold a special connection to the program for her. “When you are outside of your comfort zone, it is great to meet people who make you feel at home,” she said.

UD’s Mandela Washington Fellows forge new friendships with members of the Delaware community through peer collaboration aimed at enhancing the impact of each other’s work. Fellows are paired with leaders in local and state government and the nonprofit sector, among others.

UD alumna Taria Pritchett, a 2012 graduate from the College of Education and Human Development, worked alongside Mandela Washington Fellows Cisse Bintou, from Cote d’Ivoire, and Faith Wariri, from Nigeria, as a peer collaborator. Wariri reflected on their time together.

“We each do similar work in empowering young women to build their confidence,” she said. “Of course, our time with Taria has allowed us to learn about her work and apply it to what we do, but we’ve also developed personally through our relationship with her.”

Pritchett now serves as a teacher at Delaware’s Mount Pleasant High School and is the author of the book Born Fierce: How to Unleash the Confident Woman Within.

“Taria says that no one expects you to be perfect-- and has encouraged her students and us to be ourselves,” Bintou said. “I think I will go back home and tell my girls this, too.”

Beyond their work, Pritchett says the three are connected by their unwavering passion to contribute to healthy communities.

“I think, for me, the most important thing is the love, friendship and companionship I have gained as a collaborator,” she said. “I’ve never really had the opportunity to sit down with someone from another country and see just how similar we are.”

Sharon Hake, president and CEO of Great Dames, added that her participation as a host to SUSI Women Leaders Lucy Mugira and Lizzy Koume has also been mutually beneficial.

“I asked the girls what surprised them most about America, and they said it was the diversity. They couldn’t believe how everyone seemed to get along,” she said. “I was reminded of how well we do get along and was pretty proud of the United States when they were here.”

As the leaders travel home over the coming days, they will take their new friendships with them.

“Taria has encouraged me to be confident in myself and I see that now,” Wariri said. “I’ll take this lesson home and teach it to the girls I work with. I’ll be able to share with them how I was able to overcome my fears of public speaking and what others might say.”

Getting Involved

Learn more about the UD Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders on Women’s Leadership and the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders by visiting the Institute for Global Studies website. You can also learn more about these programs on the U.S. Department of State website for SUSIs for Student Leaders and the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.  Register your interest in becoming a host family for UD’s 2019 U.S. Department of State-sponsored programs by emailing associate director for partnerships and programs Dan Bottomley at dbott@udel.edu.

About the Institute for Global Studies

The Institute for Global Studies was created in 2009 to enhance the international dimensions of teaching, research and outreach at the University of Delaware. IGS provides leadership and support for programs and experiences that contribute to the education of informed, skilled, open-minded citizens of the world.

Best known for coordinating the University’s study abroad program, IGS also awards scholarships and grants to faculty and students for a number of global opportunities, and administers internationally recognized State Department-sponsored programs such as the UD Fulbright Initiative, Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Student Leaders Program, Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for Young African Leaders, and, most recently, the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders on Women’s Leadership.

IGS is the home of the UD Alternative Breaks Program and sponsors such signature events as Global Month each fall and country-specific celebrations each spring.

IGS collaborates with other global partners on campus, including the Office for International Students and Scholars, the Confucius Institute and the Center for Global and Area Studies. In addition, IGS partners with Enrollment Management to coordinate the UD World Scholars Program.

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