My name is Jensen Arsenault and I am the program coordinator for online exchanges.
I began my journey with SOS in September 2020, developing a curriculum focused on cultural competencies that would serve as a set of pre-exchange modules before students participated in online exchanges. This project felt like the perfect opportunity to unify my educational pursuits in teaching, youth and children studies, and the study of human rights and human diversity.
The modules consist of four parts that emphasize implicit bias, concepts of power and privilege, and ethical storytelling through a series of self reflective activities. The goal is for students to unpack their own experiences and beliefs to gain a better understanding of how their experiences shape their worldview.
Currently, they’re being used for our partner program Flip the Script with Carleton University. The name came from the idea that in order to understand different cultural perspectives, we must flip the narratives that we unconsciously hold about those who are different from us. In November, the students began working through the pre-exchange modules and laying the groundwork for the live exchanges. In February, they will participate in a weeklong live exchange with youth mentors from our Guate Groundswell program. Throughout the week, they will work together to create stories related to their communities and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The students will have the chance to explore various mediums including podcasting, videography, photography, and written journalism.
As we return from winter break, the students are wrapping up the third module. Many of them are exploring stories of social change, getting to know themselves and their peers, and sharing their experiences with each other.
From the beginning of the program, this group of students have shown dedication, passion, and an enthusiasm for storytelling. Many of the students have found deeper connections with the material and used their area of expertise to exhibit their knowledge in unique, individual ways.
In Module 1, students were asked to create either a drawing or a tweet to summarize an article for social change that made a personal impact. One student, Angel, created this beautiful drawing to depict Iris Chang’s work on the Nanjing Massacre.
On reading about Chang, Angel says she chose the article because “Chang’s tenacity and strength to have conducted that intensive article is not only inspiring to me, but I also resonated with it because I’m passionate about history and justice.”
In addition to artistic responses, the students have demonstrated a variety of ways to create clear, concise summaries of diverse issues. Gavin, created a slideshow to organize his ideas about some of the Sustainable Development Goals, how to support them, and how COVID-19 has impacted existing inequalities.
Above all, the students have shown dedication to the collaborative process of storytelling. As they finish up Module 3, the students have been tasked with taking what they’ve learned about ethical storytelling and the SDGs and applying it to a mini research study on Guatemala. Students Evert, Karl, Neha, Jonathan, and Saruga have been eagerly working through the assignment, sharing ideas and questions with the whole group. Their work, shown below, is the perfect example of the power of collaboration and curiosity in this program.
The students have put so much effort, time, and thoughtfulness into their responses to the pre-exchange activities, I can’t wait to see the energy they bring to our live exchanges.