Adult Trip 2010

June 29, 2010

Students shouldn’t get all of the fun of exploring Guatemala with Global Visionaries. With this year’s Adult Trip approaching fast, grown ups can also share that experience. The Life Long Leadership Program will be traveling through Guatemala from November 20-28, 2010.

As a partner trip of Global Visionaries’ student excursions to Guatemala, the adult Life Long Leadership Program combines recreational travelling and service learning in Antigua and surrounding areas. One major difference is that the Adult Trip is more vacation-oriented than the student trips.

While in Antigua, the travelers will experience the language, customs, culture and sights of the city. The first of many stops is Pacaya volcano, which has been continuously active since 1965. The group then departs for Lake Atitlán, one of the world’s largest and most beautiful lakes, for an overnight stay there.

Upon leaving Lake Atitlán, the group will head to the town of Chichicastenango, which is renowned for its bustling market. The market, active on Thursdays and Sundays, is famous for its cornucopia of locally produced Mayan handicrafts, textiles and other cultural goods.

The travelers then return to Antigua to work on a reforestation project before traveling to Tikal via Guatemala City to visit the pyramid ruins. The day trip in Tikal includes a hike though the surrounding jungle en route to the ruins themselves. The remainder of the day is spent exploring the pyramids before trekking back and returning to Guatemala City. The group will have one final dinner together in Guatemala City before returning to the United States the following day.

In total, the experience will cover three time zones, nine different destinations and roughly 5,761 miles, all in eight days.


Molly Freed: Bezos Scholar

June 29, 2010

Global Visionaries is proud to congratulate Molly Freed, a GV student at Chief Sealth High School, for being selected as a 2010 Bezos Scholar by The Bezos Foundation, an independent educational foundation. As one of only 12 student leaders chosen nationwide, Molly will attend the acclaimed Aspen Ideas Festival along with her fellow student scholars July 5-11.

At the festival the students will attend lectures, panel discussions, debates and presentations on topics covering issues such as environmentalism, science in education, and the arts. Past attendees of the Aspen Ideas Festival include retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Secretaries of Education Arne Duncan and Margaret Spellings, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Noah Zeichner is Molly’s teacher at Chief Seattle High School in Seattle and a fellow Bezos Scholar. When a student is selected for the scholarship, an educator from his or her school is also selected to participate in this educational leadership opportunity.

“It has been a privilege to work with Molly both in the Global Leadership Class at Chief Stealth and in Guatemala with Global Visionaries. Her leadership is truly inspiring. The opportunity to participate in the Aspen Ideas Festival is a tremendous honor and well deserved by Molly. I am grateful for the chance to collaborate with her and the otherscholars this summer in Aspen,” says Noah Zeichner.

Upon returning home after the Festival, each of the Bezos Scholars will plan their own local replication of the Aspen Ideas Festival in a friendly competition with other scholars. The most impressive plan will be rewarded with a $1,000 grant to be used to support local and regional festivals.

“This opportunity has made me realize just how valuable the entire Global Visionaries program has been to me. It has opened up doors that I would have never thought possible. I’m incredibly excited to spend a week with a new group of visionaries, and I’m lucky to be accompanied by Mr. Zeichner, whom I’ve learned so much from already,” says Molly Freed.

The Bezos Family Foundation is a private, independent foundation established by Jackie and Mike Bezos, who along with their children and spouses serve as directors. The Foundation works to strengthen educational opportunities for everyone, regardless of economic circumstances, and cultivate learning as a life-long process that begins at birth.

Book Review: A Hope in the Unseen

June 29, 2010

A Hope in the Unseen, written by Ron Suskind, is the amazing story of Cedric, a teenager who grew up in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. in the early 1990s and his determination to leave and attend an Ivy League school.

It is a true success story among too many unsuccessful ones. His force of character, his faith and the unfailing support of his mother helped him beat the odds and continue on his chosen path.  Rarely can someone face so many challenges and still persevere.

Through Cedric’s personal story, Suskind dives deep into the issues of race and acceptance of differences during his time at Brown University. Cedric had to face the daily struggles of being a poor African-American boy exposed to the incomprehension and rejection of his peers in his neighborhood while struggling to fit in and understand the life of those he has chosen to emulate at a highly competitive school.

The reader not only hears from the voice of Cedric, but also from his high school and college classmates. Suskind recounts their fears, insecurities, tense moments, and the difficulties at understanding and accepting true diversity from all sides of the spectrum.

One of the most important lessons taken from A Hope in the Unseen is not losing one’s identity in the desperate need to integrate. Cedric’s story is about leaving anger on the side and choosing instead to understand and accept others while keeping one’s sense of self.

At the end of his freshmen year at Brown, Cedric came to the conclusion that  “being here doesn’t alter who he is, that he’s becoming sure enough of himself that he can get right up close, feel the pulse, smell the air, see what there is to see, and not lose himself.  He can stay or leave.  He can decide, because now he knows what’s here.  The choices are all his.”

June 2010 Letter from Executive Director Chris Fontana

June 1, 2010

Dear GV community,

For me, it was affirming to see the turnout of support for our 9th annual auction. I was particularly touched by a $100 donation which came from Emily Lyons, a high school student from Chief Sealth High School who attended with her father. During the Fund-A-Scholarship portion of the evening, she was inspired to give her own money to support low-income youth on their journey to become global leaders. Emily’s donation is one small example of how youth, given the opportunity, prove time and time again that they have the power to change the world.

This summer we will gather many more stories as we survey our 800-plus alumni to see what impact GV has made on their lives and what impact they have had on the planet and their communities. We are planning on sharing these stories at next year’s auction where we will share testimonials and alumni highlights. So if you’d like to continue supporting GV and be part of an inspirational evening, please plan on being with us for our 10th Annual GV Auction on May 7, 2011.

Global Visionaries has reached an extraordinary milestone since our founding in 1996. Thanks to the support from the Seattle International Foundation and the three year collaboration between the GV international community consisting of Youth Board, parents, staff and our Board of Directors, we have completed a five year strategic plan—our very first! By the end of 2014, we will have increased the number of young people we serve annually from 350 to over 1,000. Additionally, youth will be co-leading every aspect of our programming and organization. Creating youth change-makers will continue to be the core of what we do.

As we begin this new phase, I look back to our beginnings and to our founders, Jason Foster and Joe Fontana.  In 1996, Jason returned from a one-year backpacking trip around the world and saw the need to get students out of the classroom and in the world where real education happens. Jason called upon his former teacher and mentor Joe Fontana and the two created Global Visionaries. Joe continues to teach and to manage GV’s California and Colorado programs while Jason went on to get a law degree from the University of Michigan and work at the United Nations writing multi-lateral treaties for international aid. For the past two yeas, he has been working at The Hague for the International Court of Justice ( in the Netherlands.

For the next five years, we, Global Visionaries, are renewing our commitment to providing a reliable pathway for youth to simultaneously transform their lives and their world. Our goal: that every GV participant continues a lifelong ethic of service which translates into a positive impact through their chosen life path.  I thank all of you—this community we call “GV”—and I invite all of you who are not yet part of our community to come aboard!

Self-Profile, Christina Ygoña

May 28, 2010

“The most important contribution any of us can make now is not to solve any particular problem, no matter how urgent energy or environment or financial regulation is. What we must do now is increase the proportion of humans who know that they can cause change.”

—Bill Drayton, Ashoka Founder

I recently attended a post-trip retreat gathering for the group of GV participants who went on the trip to Guatemala last April. There was a time for each participant to share a story from the trip which I am safe to assume represented only a sliver of what they got out of their experience. Not surprisingly, but nonetheless moving, there were many stories of personal transformation and connection. I saw a little bit of myself in each of those stories, given my experiences in the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps Volunteer and in a multicultural upbringing as a Filipino-American. For me, the story-sharing was also a moment for me to reflect and remind myself that youth can be genuine change makers in this world.

It is my honor to support current and future change makers as the Development and Executive Assistant at GV. In this position, I am excited about new opportunities for GV, such as creating the first-ever alumni network, establishing and expanding corporate partnerships, streamlining processes for grants and contributions, and supporting new communication initiatives (like the e-newsletter!).

Outside of GV, some activities I enjoy include attempting to cook and bake, laughing out loud while reading David Sedaris, getting my exercise via indoor volleyball and salsa dancing, and exploring the beautiful outdoors the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Looking at the short time since joining GV in April, I have learned how fortunate I am to be in a community comprised of truly amazing people: students, parents, donors, volunteers, interns, Board Members, and staff. I see each member of this community like a keystone as each one’s contribution is an essential supporting element to the whole in advancing the mission of GV. I look forward to the opportunity to meet each one of you and for the possibilities we will create together.

Fiesta de Guatemala!

May 19, 2010

An assortment of exotic items, inspirational keynote speakers, a daring challenge fund, and an array of succulent desserts highlighted Global Visionaries’ “Fiesta de Guatemala” auction gala. Held on May 8th at the Jerry Brockey Conference Center at South Seattle Community College, GV’s 2010 Auction raised $130,000 in donations, setting the bar high for future fundraising events.
The 340 attendees were privileged to listen to two remarkable keynote speakers, Sandra Aracely Ordonez and Charissa Shoecraft, deliver powerful testimonies about their personal stories and relationship with GV.
“Just as GV has helped me change my life, GV has also given many children the opportunity to learn to read and write by building schools in villages that had none before,” Ordonez said in her speech. “This gives hope to the children and the community.”
Sandra is a Cakchikel Mayan woman from Guatemala who is in the United States working with EarthCorps. Charissa is a student at Rainier Beach High School who attended the 2010 spring trip.
“You hear so many people say that youth are the future but not many programs give youth the opportunity to be in leadership positions and experience the power of the world first hand,” Shoecraft said. “GV is truly empowering the next generation.”
During the live auction, Board Member Alison McCaffree challenged everyone in the audience to raise $6,300 to match the amount of money raised by people who wanted to attend the auction but could not. She successfully got 63 people to donate $100 right on the spot.

The “Fiesta de Guatemala” would not have been possible without the help of our students, parents, staff, and numerous volunteers who helped procure items, raise money, and host the auction.

Self-Profile, Andrea Zikakis

May 19, 2010

Global Visionaries first came to my attention four years ago through a high school student who was involved with GV. Throughout his time with Global Visionaries, I was privileged to journey alongside him and his family hearing stories about how GV was helping him to be more aware of the world in which he lived as well as how he lived in that world. I was able to dialogue with him about what he was learning through Global Visionaries and how it impacted him how it affected his family.

But perhaps I was most surprised that this learning was not just rendered through an intellectual discourse but rather through active participation. Sure there were some talks, but more than that, there were service projects, group discussions, shared fund-raising, and an invaluable cross-cultural trip to help expose kids to life outside of the United States.

I am a firm believer that people learn best in interactive and engaging environments. It’s one thing to study history, it’s quite another to recognize how our history forms us while simultaneously recognizing that it need not control us. I love that GV fosters opportunities for high-schoolers to be actively involved in their own development and the improvement of the world.

One of my strongest core values is that all people have dignity. Although this value has been with me since childhood, it’s found a fuller expression through living and working in five different countries (the United States, Philippines, Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica). Over and over again, I have been touched by the beauty and goodness of people. Sadly, I have also witnessed how that beauty has been threatened by prejudice, as well as privilege. My pursuit of working towards a just world aligns with GV’s steadfast commitment to bring forth equality to all people.

I believe that young people have the creativity and wherewithal to make significant changes.  I am very excited to be part of GV. I know I have a lot to learn but I couldn’t ask for a better organization to do it with. I look forward to meeting many of you in the days and months ahead.

Youth Venture Presentations 2010

May 19, 2010

This past February, 17 students from Global Visionaries presented seven different proposals of service projects they would like to launch to benefit social justice causes in Seattle and abroad.

These student-led initiatives are part of a pilot partnership program between Global Visionaries and Youth Venture, an international social entrepreneurship organization that specializes in providing youth with the resources to launch their own self-sustaining service projects. After the presentations, the groups were awarded $6,200 to launch their ventures.

Project proposals include Bridges of Hope, a program aspiring to put a face to the problems of homelessness, Ping Pong for Nompondo, which aims to give resources to a small school in Nompondo, South Africa, and Youth Campaign for Political Action, dedicated to fighting youth apathy in Seattle/Bellevue, among many others.

One of the presenters was AJ Winkelman, a junior at Mercer Island High School. Winkelman, along with Gabe Tse, introduced EducAid, an after-school tutoring program where high school students tutor elementary school students for at least one hour per week.

“When I went to Guatemala, we learned about how important education is, and we saw how excited the kids were when they saw a school being built,” Winkelman said. “Education is the most important way we can help them help themselves.”

A relationship between Global Visionaries and Youth Venture seems like a perfect match, as both organizations share similar values. As Global Visionaries offers students with the resources to make a positive change in their communities, Youth Venture provides them with the training and knowledge necessary to make those changes effective and sustainable.

The students involved in this pilot program began working with Youth Venture team members in mid November. Youth Venture sponsored ten workshop activities for GV students to participate in, with their tenth workshop culminating in the panel presentations. Previous workshops focused on teaching students the business skills needed to become successful social entrepreneurs; such as budgeting, making time lines, brainstorming ideas, implementing ideas into action, fund-raising, creating goals, assigning duties and planning for the future.

Enabling young people to become global leaders, creating a just and sustainable future.