Heathfield students celebrate their global connections through the Global Social Leaders initiative.

19th October

Heathfield students with some of their designs

Last week 9 students from Heathfield Community College gathered together to retell experiences of their international summer adventures. They told of connections they had made with teenagers from around the world: from China, Hong Kong, Australia, Africa, Japan and across Europe. The conversations and adventures happened courtesy of a social change project, enabled by the College and provided by Global Social Leaders, long standing partner of Heathfield.

Students had the opportunity to hear inspiring speakers, receive leadership coaching and attend seminars with fellow students from across the globe….. all online. They literally travelled the world for the first week of their summer holidays, from their own home.

The exchange of ideas and learning was impressive. These young people had given up the precious first week of their summer holiday to connect online with others they had never met and yet the confidence and global understanding they demonstrated as a result was inspiring.

Oliver and Katie talked about the compelling leadership coaching, including the analogy of wolf packs who put their most vulnerable member at the front of the pack, surrounded by the fittest and strongest, whilst the leader travels at the back of the pack. They spoke of how despite initial shyness they learnt to contribute in the seminars, slowly initially and then gradually with increasing confidence. Both were articulate and authentic in the benefit they had gained from being brave enough to put themselves in the room, a message echoed by others in the group.

Ellie and Alice spoke about the breadth of diversity in the programme and how refreshing it was to be in a genuinely multi-cultural environment. They were able to articulate the cultural differences each person bought to the discussion and reflected how humbling it was to realise that one participant was contributing from a refugee camp on limited and shared technology. The concerns about extremes of poverty, climate change and mental health were clearly international and they heard it direct from all corners of the world.

Many of the group had opted to stay engaged in the project beyond the initial input and had taken up the 30-day challenge to raise awareness of the issues discussed. Michael and Brandon had both utilised their digital skills in different ways. Creating podcasts, publishing essays and websites to profile the discussion about sea pollution or mental health. Sophie channelled her creativity designing postcards for sale at local centres Follies Wildlife and Wildlife A&E with all proceeds going to support the charities. Fern had set up a go fund me page to support the refugee crisis in Ukraine, donating proceeds to the Red Cross earned from extensive sponsored bike rides of up to 50k!

Charles described it as “incredible” to have the opportunity to work with people from across the globe and whilst each brought their own perspective the concerns they shared were actually very similar. Charles founded a website to raise awareness of the risks to our oceans, created posters and had taken the campaign to the streets setting up a stall to sell environmentally friendly products printed up with his own designs to carry the message far and wide.

Ms Barlow, headteacher said “The College seeks to encourage students to be confident and ambitious in their aspirations. We strive to provide a range of opportunities for them to move out of their comfort zone, to learn and grow. However, this group of young people have excelled themselves, embracing learning and taking action in ways beyond anything we might have imagined. The empathy and understanding for others they demonstrated was impressive and their commitment to the issues of climate change, poverty and mental health is inspiring. We are sure their determination will not stop here and we can’t wait to see what they do next!