Category Archives: Perspectives

Summer Immersion Update – From Naomi!

Coming into this experience I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or what it would entail, but I feel as though I’m starting to catch on more. Working in the hospital again this year has been incredible. To be honest, I feel as though it has almost been a bit harder this year. For the first two days that we spent in the hospital, I found myself leaving with a sense of panic. I kept on feeling as though I had no time to spend with the patients and the friends I had created last year and also make time to create new connections. Last year I left here with the idea of applying to Youth Board, which provided me with the small sense of hope that I might return. This year, though, I realize that it would be very difficult, if even possible, to return in the coming years and visit my friends in the hospital, which is a terrifying and sad thought.

Things have been really great though overall and I’m still a bit overwhelmed and astonished that I’m actually back here. Leading is definitely more exhausting than I could ever have imagined. I feel like the Junior Leaders have many behind the scenes responsibilities, which are difficult to notice from the outside, so I don’t have a perfect image to replicate. Many of the responsibilities and tasks we have are fairly simple and would be quickly accomplished by one person, but in the effort to foster teamwork, we delegate different parts of the job to different people. It is very important and provides the participants with an opportunity to practice their leadership skills. It is just a much more tiring process when you have to delegate, check in, confirm that the job was completed, and reflect for each individual task. It absolutely pays off, though, when you see someone that was once shy and timid share, open up to the group, and blossom in the work they are doing and people they are interacting with. It really is incredible. I can’t wait to see how other develop as well.

-Naomi Rothenberg (Mercer Island High School Class of 2016, incoming first year student at Willamette University)

Voices of Visionaries : Brian

“One of the greatest things I’ve taken away from the program is an increased empathy for my fellow human beings. After being in Guatemala I’ve truly gotten a sense of the fundamental value of human life. And I feel that the greatest way that I can pay that back is by becoming a physician to help save other people’s lives.”

In one word, what do you feel now you have been part of GV?


My name’s Brian and I am a junior from Mercer Island, Washington. I serve as one of the Youth Representatives on the Board of Directors, meaning I go to all of the board meetings, and I help sculpt the organization. It’s an opportunity for me to give a voice of the youth to this group of adults and help shape where we’re going. Brian2What lured me to Global Visionaries (GV) was the chance to travel outside the United States and have a hands-on experience in a foreign country. The ability to work in Antigua’s hospital, for instance, seemed like an amazing opportunity to give back, and was well-suited to my interest in becoming a physician. One of the greatest things I’ve learned from the program is an increased empathy for my fellow human beings. After working in the hospital, I gained a sense of the fundamental value of human life, as well as an increased drive to make an impact on the world. And I feel that the best way I can contribute to our global society is by practicing medicine.

I’ve never been completely comfortable in my own skin, but once I got to Guatemala and started interacting with my peers in the cohort, I felt that any semblance of inadequacy melted away. The atmosphere that GV creates is one of true community. I never worried what people thought of me, and I knew that they had my back. I carry this warmth with me wherever I go now, knowing that I have this bond with my peers from GV, even though we may go down different paths in our lives.

One element that is absolutely vital to the essence of GV is its 50-50 model — the idea 50 percent of participants should be from low-income families, and 50 percent not. I didn’t initially understand what that offered to the organization, but once I was actually engaged in discussions with the group, it dawned on me. Our discussions would have been so much more superficial without that diversity. Having a broad spectrum of participants brings a wealth of perspectives and first-hand knowledge that is genuinely powerful, and it had a profound effect on me.

I’m very drawn to the GV philosophy. Because I love both biology and analogies, I think of GV as a treatment for the underlying cause of many of the world’s social ills, rather than just a palliative for symptoms. After a virus enters its host, it begins exponentially multiplying itself and vying for control of the body, resulting in a cluster of symptoms that do further damage to the body. We have racial and religious conflicts, famine, suffering. Our world has all these symptoms, but behind them is a virus, a root cause. It can be tempting to pour all of our resources into fighting the symptoms, but unless we remove the core causes, the symptoms will just resurface. GV attacks the virus, not the symptoms, and I think that is an inspiring mission.

Due to the fact that donors are giving GV funds for low income youth scholarships , there’s such a huge diversity and broad spectrum of people from all walks of life coming together to share their perspectives. I found that I was incredibly impacted by all these people’s viewpoints, and all of their takes on these different issues. It truly broadened my horizons by meeting these people that I wouldn’t normally. Having them come into the organization, and being able to forge a bond with them, definitely broadened my horizons. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in a life-changing experience.

Voices of Visionaries : Richard

“After having gone on the program and the trip, whenever I go walk around in Seattle, I notice things that I wouldn’t have usually noticed. I could be walking down the street, and I could see homeless people in a whole other view. I feel like there’s this system of inequality in everything. Before, I would have not seen that. I would’ve just seen a homeless person asking for money. I feel like I have the power to impact the world and that I should strive to do that”



I’m a high school junior and I serve on the Global Visionaries (GV) Youth Board. Specifically, I’m an immersion leader. I go down to Guatemala as a resource and role model for the first-year participants. When I went to Guatemala as a first-year participant,I watched myself and everyone around me grow, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that again.My leadership role now is very meaningful to me. I try my best to be a source of knowledge and a good role model for the new participants It’s a lot of pressure to always demonstrate the right things to do, but that’s what leadership means to me.

I was so shy when I joined GV. I remember attending my first GV Culture Night and just standing alone in a corner because I was afraid to let other people see who I really was. Slowly I started to take to heart GV’s mantra, which is to get out of your comfort zone, and I began to be myself, which allowed me to get close to the other participants. Now I bring so much more confidence to every activity I do, whether it’s wrestling, math class, or just interacting with new people.

After experiencing the program, I started noticing things I wouldn’t have noticed before. I might see a homeless person while walking down the street. Before, I would have just seen someone asking me for money. Now I recognize a whole system of inequality and it prompts me to think about how I can make a positive impact. The old me might have put a few coins in the cup and then forgotten about it. But now I feel that I absolutely have to take it further and do my part to change the world.

I was a recipient of a scholarship, and that was a huge decision factor for me. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to join GV and go to Guatemala. The support of the donors let me have this incredible experience. It’s been so eye-opening for me, and I’m forever indebted to the people who helped me in this personal transformation.  Thank you.

GV Youth Board – Immersion Leader.

Youth Designing for Good: Bringing Design Thinking to Community Development


By Bess Nuland

This December, Maggie Chumbley, a global and community educator, joined the Environmental Justice Team for a Tuesday evening meeting to discuss how to incorporate “design thinking” and “prototyping” principles into community mobilization projects. The Environmental Justice team has been exploring meaningful ways to incorporate local voices and support community action in addressing conservation and sustainability issues in the Seattle area. With Ms. Chumbley’s facilitation, the Environmental Justice team learned to employ tools to collect information and cultivate relationships that will help them identify community needs and design service programs that galvanize the community around environmental justice topics.

Ms. Chumbley explains the process and importance of design thinking as follows:

When creating community projects and support youth to create their own projects, it helps to orient our thinking towards process over product.  Instead of encouraging them to find just one great idea, the youth learn the tools, habits of mind, and a process that allows them to engage with the communities they hope to serve way that truly meets the needs of those communities. This means instead of asking, “What shall we do?” they ask, “What might need to happen?” Two of the most powerful skills these eager youth leave with are also two of the most important core values of design thinking: empathy and prototyping. They learn, through the design thinking process that it takes multiple interviews, meetings, observations, good questions, photos, videos, and visits to begin to grasp what is happening and what might need to happen to be in true service in their communities. Empathy is paramount, as it supports subsequent process of prototyping. Guiding youth to try out several of their ideas in several situations in order to learn more about what might work best and then design for it is the heart of prototyping. And the best part is, it completely eliminates the pressure to get it “right” the first time.”

In the New Year, the Environmental Justice team will be employing these new tools to explore expanding composting programs in schools and promoting community gardens.

My Pathway Through College

My pathway through coll

By Theresa Keith

As a high school student, I was a part of many different activities, clubs, and organizations, all of which affected and shaped those years of my life. In my opinion, the true measure of an organization’s impact on your life is the degree to which it influences the choices you make, especially those choices that in turn, greatly affect your life. For me, that influence was Global Visionaries (GV) which greatly affected my search and final decision for college. In retrospect, I am extremely grateful that this was the case.

I joined GV in my junior year of high school, and continued with GV Youth Board my senior year. The skills and lessons that I learned with GV, both personal and global, infiltrated my thinking about higher education and the course my life would eventually take. While in the GV program I realized how much I value diversity, community, leadership, activism, social justice, and global perspectives. I realized that I found a sense of purpose and fulfillment when learning and teaching about these ideas, and that I wanted to be able to pursue that wherever I went to college. I looked for a place that was in a globally connected city, had study abroad opportunities, valued social justice, and most of all promoted learning for a purpose beyond oneself. These aspects led me to choose the University of San Francisco (USF), and the influence of GV did not stop there.

Although I have only been at USF for one semester, I have gravitated toward clubs such as “Students of the World.” Two of my first courses at USF were “Writing about Human Rights” and “Confluences and Conflicts in the Spanish Speaking World,” two passions that were ignited and encouraged at culture nights and in the GV office. GV has not necessarily changed what I want to do in life, since I still currently plan on double majoring in biology and Spanish and becoming a biologist. Instead, GV has changed how I intend to do these things: by collaborating cross-culturally, by learning through travel, by infusing scientific study with the awareness of injustices, and by always working for a purpose greater than oneself and in the service of others.

1st Year Participant 2012-2013

Youth Board Member 2013-2014

The Chain of Growth


By Natalie Chaparro, Pro Justice Team

A wave of shock came over me when we landed. The airplane ride was full of “what if’s” and excited nervousness that everyone was able to relate to. I couldn’t believe we were going to Guatemala, so much anticipation and curiosities that are going to be exposed to me. We retrieved our bags, cleared through customs, and braced ourselves at the glass doors that revealed something that made my heart drop. Loud cheering and radiant smiles, countless people to welcome us to their home stood outside the airport to greet all of us. Shaking their hands and kissing their cheeks one by one, the genuineness of it all made me feel at ease, it made me feel like I was in paradise. We loaded our luggage onto our travel bus, and took our seats sitting tightly next to new friends.

We all finally sat on the bus waiting for what’s next. But it didn’t matter, the laughter and simple joy of knowing we were all going to go through this together reflected on every face, and was something that I could feel deep in my stomach. My cheeks flushed as I read my families welcome card, we were all handed one on the bus as we traveled to meet them and spend our first night with them. It felt good knowing that every word on that card was just for me, even if I could barely understand the language at first, it was still meant for me.

That was the very first memory that started a chain of growth for me in Guatemala. It was the very first memory that stood as the foundation for all other bonding experiences that have acted as the building blocks for what I am proud to be part of today. Every day I woke up, I went to work, I spoke to someone new, and I found a little part of myself. I knew that meeting that little part of myself would have been unattainable without my host family, without my GV family, but most importantly, without San Miguel. It is a part of me that grew and surfaced within the hour I was immersed in such a special place, and it’s a feeling that everyone should be given the chance to discover.

Explaining the journey that Guatemala takes a person on, the self-discovery, the exposure to a world outside your own and how much knowledge one gains is truly indescribable. To define Guatemala into a series and compilation of words that leaves so much to interpretation, does not do it justice. When I returned home, that was another thing I discovered. Trying to explain the path on which this amazing place took me and continues to take me is one of the most taxing things to put into words. Words are a powerful thing, but there is still that fear of denigrating all that Guatemala is with them. The encounter with it is the only thing that could emanate all of its beauty in the most articulate way.

When I returned home, the responsibility I felt to the people who were curious to know about this place, made me feel like my work wasn’t done. Working with the Chapines was for a purpose, how much they taught me and how much I was able to teach them is something I was ready to give to more people, something I wanted more people to have. The hesitation, the nervousness the utter unknowing of all the possibilities that await when traveling there is the beautiful chance I wanted to give to future students to take. I decided that after my first year in Global Visionaries’ leadership program, the second year program was where I belonged. I ended up combining forces with Pro Justice (PJ), a team that actively works towards giving first year students the preparation for their journey that we were given by the PJ leaders that taught us as first years.

I not only continue to feel like my PJ team is my family, but it has been what keeps what I found in myself in Guatemala alive and ambitious. The power I hold as a young person and knowing I can be the change in contribution to a sustainable world and environment has been the light for me these past two years.

New friends, new views, and a whole different type of active involvement has uncovered itself to me, and I feel honored to work with the amazing people that I continue to work with today.

The story of Billy and Emma – from Guatemala to Seattle – participants to staff.

EmmaAndBilly2014Global Visionaries (GV) serves as an equalizer by bringing together two cultures through the face of youth. A rare moment in GV history is captured here, where two previous participants who joined GV in the same year – one on the Seattle program, the other in Guatemala – now reflect on what valuable experiences they have gained individually and how they hope GV has shaped their futures. Today, Billy and Emma have graduated from GV and are now staff members who share valuable insights and advice on what impacts GV relationships and experiences shaped for them in becoming the young adults they are today:

  •  How did you hear about Global Visionaries and why did you join?

Billy: It’s an interesting story, but I didn’t want to. My best friend actually signed me up after a presentation at my school. I was really skeptical about it all, and I did not want to get dirty working on construction and reforestation teams. In Guatemala, volunteering is not part of our culture. We (Guatemalans) need to work, so it didn’t make sense to me at the time. My best friend at the time, signed me up and he convinced me and challenged me to do something different. So I gave it a shot.

Emma: I remember it so clearly, I remember Mario Flores (GV’s Program Director) speaking in my Spanish class about the disparity of his country and how GV was an opportunity to make a difference, and what better way to do that than during summer break? I was very involved in athletics but something about the opportunity to make a difference inspired me to make that leap and take on another commitment. I had gone on a trip to Rome with my middle school and since then have always looked for ways to explore cultures outside of my own. I didn’t realize just how much personal impact GV would have, aside from providing me the opportunity to travel again.

  • What was it like first interacting with young people your age, from another country and culture?

Billy: I remember exactly. I was on the bus with the “gringos,” on the way to construction… and I remember they (the trip leaders) started facilitating questions like, “Where are you from, what’s your name, what do you do for fun…etc….” It was very awkward because I didn’t speak any English, and my partner didn’t speak any Spanish. But it was fun and by the end of the day I felt more comfortable interacting with “los gringos” and more bonded with my Guatemalan friends. I also stopped caring about being dirty.

Emma: I was so nervous! It was awkward, uncomfortable, and very strange to say the least. Meeting students your age from another school at home was already outside of my comfort zone, but at least we had a common background – Seattle. This was completely different. I remember being paired with a Guatemalan participant, and we were asked to interview one another about, “What is your favorite food, what do you like to do in your free time…etc.” My answers were short-ended, there was a lot of hand gestures, and a lot, a lot of silence but there was a lot of nervous smiling, too.

  •  How did GV inspire you to take action in your community?

Billy: Well, in my first experience it was great to get to know “los gringos.” But most importantly, I later realized that when we were together during a GV activity, we broke down all the stereotypes (nerds, cool kids, etc..)  and GV helped create that space. I continued working with GV because it felt like a community and family outside of school and my own family. It inspired me, because it gave me an opportunity and a space, to give back to my peers (future Guatemalan participants). There’s so much segregation in my country with social classes, and no uniformity so it’s important to talk about the structures and divides in Guatemala. GV creates a space where youth can be themselves. GV also helps to breakdown those social boundaries to create more unity.

Emma: Before my experience in Guatemala, a group of alumni (the GV Youth Board) had facilitated a workshop on systematic oppression. I was really impressed that kids my age were conducting these conversations and facilitating activities that would encourage us to speak on real-life issues in our community. Issues that affect us all: racism, sexism, classism, imperialism, etc. As a daughter of two moms, I have experienced discrimination first and second-hand and GV gave me the language to tell my story, and the space to hear other peoples’ experience. I saw the root of activism was not being afraid to have “difficult” conversations about the issues people face every day, including myself.

  •  What tools did GV equip you with to better follow your passions?

Billy: It provided me space, and opportunity to grow professionally and personally. GV supported me in being more confident in myself, and speaking my words, thoughts and opinions. Traveling to the United States I had a newfound understanding of how to work with others, after seeing their culture. This experience gave me insight on how to create a stronger relationship between the two cultures.

Emma: GV reminded me to use my voice, to step outside my comfort zone, and to work hard. Since my first year with GV I am more confident in my ability to communicate myself to others. I appreciate a hard work-ethic, and strive to demonstrate it to others daily. Leading by example, more than anything else, is the greatest tool GV gave to me as a leader.

  • What changes have you seen in one another, after going through the program, and now as staff?

Billy: When I first met Emma, she was very introverted and quiet so I didn’t get to know her very well. The second time she came to Guatemala, she became more lively and started to speak her mind and share her thoughts and opinions. When she left Guatemala after her work as a GAP year student, I noticed she was following her passions in the social movement and was very active in addressing many issues. Today, I see a strong woman who speaks her mind and works for her community.  As staff, we understand each other better, because we understand our cultural backgrounds.

Emma: I remember Billy as a very outgoing character. His excitement for the program, and willingness to get to know us “gringos” was impressive. I aspired to be like that. He kept a good sense of humor and always made people laugh. As staff, I am constantly reminded of his good humor which he has managed to maintain in his development as a young adult and staff member here at GV. I’m happy to be working with him and learning from him.

  • If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you first started the program?

Billy: I would have told myself, “Billy, why didn’t you jump in!? Ask questions?” I was very curious about a lot of things with the “gringos”, and it would have been important for me to get to know them more at that time. I wish I gave myself the time to get to know my friends (Guatemalans) better, so I could understand what it means to make connections and relationships with people. I would encourage myself to ask more, and let people get to know me.

Emma: I would have reminded myself that “it takes friction to make a surface smooth”. The first time speaking with and learning from another person is a process! Everything takes practice, and every effort is the best you can give at that time. When things seem awkward or uncomfortable, own it! Have fun, and enjoy the moment!

  • What legacy do you want to leave with Global Visionaries as a member of staff?

Billy: I want to leave a program for Guatemala, that is designed to be led by youth where participants can find a space to be themselves and follow their passions. I want to provide them with tools to take action in their community.

Emma: I hope to foster a sense of adventure, enthusiasm, and willingness to participate to the best of their ability with all activities no matter how silly they may seem.  I also hope to serve as a support system to participants who come back from their immersion, and provide more opportunities for them to reflect and expand their thoughts with others outside of GV. There’s a whole world out there, of other organizations and groups that our students could get involved in. I hope to give our participants opportunities.

The Power of Collaboration

Chris Fontana_GLSI_croppedIt really does take a village: this past August, Global Visionaries (GV) collaborated with seven organizations to host the Global Leadership Summer Institute for educators. The Institute included 22 educators from five states. Throughout the weeklong Institute, educators learned how to create a truly democratic classroom in which students can become engaged global leaders.

But what is a democratic classroom? Simply put a democratic classroom is where educators teach and students learn in an environment where both are empowered. Its bottom up, not top down. Where students have a platform to inform policy and curriculum. Student councils are empowered to have a real say in how issues are addressed in their schools and communities. And the student body take responsibility for their classroom environments, fostering leadership and empowerment, and take positive action. This is what teachers who attend our Institute learn; that we cannot teach responsibility, we can only share it.

Results and success from the Institute were reflected in feedback from participant Lisa Westerfield, a Global Contexts For Leadership Pathway Teacher and Curriculum Developer at Newark Charter Jr/Sn High School, Newark, DE. She reports,

“I held my first class meeting in my Global Leadership II class. I just wanted to let you know it was amazing.  The students are bought into the idea of class jobs and how the class will be structured. They also like the idea of adopting an elementary classroom this year too.  One wonderful action took place was when one of my returning students who last year was quiet and rarely participated, without intense prompting volunteered for a leadership class job that will require her to be the spokesperson for the class when speaking with our principal. Wonderful outcome for a first meeting.”

GV’s commitment is to shepherd in an era in which educators and students, parents and youth, collaborate powerfully on a higher level of thought and interaction. But it takes a village and GV is just part of this picture. This year’s Institute and the positive outcomes of each educators’ experience, would not have been possible without GV’s valued partners and funders: Seattle University School of Education, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Seattle Public Schools; as well as GV’s educational partners, Center for Teaching Quality, World Affairs Council, Global Weeks and Facing the Future, all providing facilities and resources to the Institute.

For our imperiled Earth, and the humans and other beings who live on it, these interactions are invaluable to the successes of our future.

By Chris Fontana, Global Visionaries

The Global Leadership Summer Institute for Educators is scheduled for August 3 – 7, 2015. If you are interested in participating, volunteering, or financially supporting the Institute, please contact

Using theater in education as a tool for transformational discussion and learning

2014 Guatemala
2014 Guatemala

One thing that makes Global Visionaries (GV) unique is how all participants receive the same experience, no matter their background. This used to be only true for our Seattle participants, but this year GV has moved towards equal programming for our participants both in Seattle and Guatemala. One example of this programming is in GV’s use of Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), a form of popular community based education that uses theater as a tool for transformation.

Originally this form of theatre was developed by actor and activist Augusto Boal, through his work with peasants and other worker populations. Boal was inspired by the vision of good friend, Paulo Freire, and Freire’s landmark treatise on education “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” Boal’s work has inspired others around the world to work toward social and political activism, conflict resolution, community building, and even government legislation.

Up until now, TO had primarily been utilized in Seattle by GV staff and its participants. But this year GV incorporated TO into its intensive program allowing both Guatemalans and “Gringos” to engage in an interactive theater based forum. Led by long-time GV friend and counselor, Marc Weinblatt, the group talked about sexism in Guatemala as experienced by our staff. The result was the creation of a play titled, “Lo que la vida me robo,” (translation: “what life stole from me”).

The play, and TO, is about analyzing rather than accepting what is presented and questioning rather than giving answers.  It is also about “acting” rather than just talking.  Throughout the experience of “Lo que la video me robo”, audience members were transformed from spectators into “spect-actors”.   Through the evocative language of theatre, everyone was invited to share their opinion on the issue at hand – sexism. And even though the play was in Spanish, it didn’t stop Seattle participants from engaging with one another as “spect-actors.”

Interested in learning more about Theatre of the Oppressed? Join us for a workshop December 6-7, where we partner with Marc Weinblatt’s organization at The Mandala Center for Change, on “Diversity: Evolving from Reality to Truth.” We’ll explore how our gender, ethnicity, and other social group memberships affect our experience in the world. Register here, and get a glimpse of what our students’ experience.

By Emma Shull, Global Visionaries

Global Visionaries views its youth as leaders of today, inspiring the leaders of tomorrow. As we strive to become a youth-led organization, we involve our young people in many facets of our organizational practice. Youth engagement and inspiring action to work towards a just and sustainable future are generated by conversations and participation in activities such as TO.

More about Marc Weinblatt

Marc has been a professional educator, theatre director, activist, and workshop facilitator since 1980. He is an internationally recognized leader in the use of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, and has trained thousands to utilize these techniques across the U.S. and from Afghanistan to South Africa. Most recently, Marc joined Global Visionaries (GV) during our intensive program and worked with the Guatemalan staff in creating a play for our GV participants.

Haley’s Blog – Post 6

In the final hours I spend in Guatemala, I reminisce on the lessons I’ve learned, the places I’ve visited, and the people I’ve met. This place will, inevitably, have a lasting impact on my global perspective and understanding.

I’d like to thank Global Visionaries for this unparalleled opportunity to live and work among the Guatemalan people for the last five weeks. It’s been a privilege getting to know this town and its people, coming to embrace its culture, immersing myself wholly and shamelessly. Parting with all I’ve so quickly become familiar with will be bittersweet.

Below are a few of the memories I’ve shared with the Intensive group.