Global Scholar students to present talks on international projects

A dozen students from Naperville Unit District 203, who will be among the first to receive the new Illinois Global Scholar Certificate, are polishing up short speeches about the boundary-breaking projects that helped them earn the award.

During a series of Global EdTalks, to be given Tuesday evening in the style of the popular TED Talks, these students will explain what they've learned about worldwide topics such as labor organizing in Bangladesh or landslide prevention in Nepal.

The presentations will give a sense of the knowledge students gained from pursuing the Illinois Global Scholar Certificate, which was approved by state law in 2016.

The certificate requires students to take eight globally focused courses, complete a globally focused service learning project, collaborate with peers from other nations, participate in globally focused student activities and complete a capstone project on an international issue.

Naperville Central High School teachers Seth Brady and Randy Smith, who helped create the Global Scholar Certificate, say they're impressed with students' ability to communicate across cultures, ask new and complex questions and weave the answers into projects about topics such as religious freedom in Turkey or Ebola prevention in Sierra Leone.

Brady said students learned how to write professional emails and conduct themselves professionally on the phone - interpersonal skills that shouldn't be underestimated in today's digital world.

"What you get with that interaction is a sense that what you're doing is truly authentic and meaningful," Brady said.

Students gave talks on their capstone projects in class, then led the effort to create Tuesday's event to share them with the public.

The Global EdTalks are set to take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Little Theater at Naperville Central High School, 440 Aurora Ave.

Smith said some students will present individually, while others will join panel discussions led by a student moderator.

"Something really good is going on here with our students," Smith said. "It's exciting to showcase them."

While the event is free, Brady said he hopes attendees will give a $5 donation.

This year, some student projects required translation into languages such as Nepali or Bengali, a service that doesn't come free.

Brady said a $100,000 Farmers Insurance grant he received in late 2016 helped make this year's projects possible, and he's also received funding from the Naperville Education Foundation.

But he hopes to build a system where "one year's Global EdTalks help support students the next year."

This year, the Global Scholar candidates from District 203 will join a small number of their peers from Belleville West High School near St. Louis in receiving the certificate. Naperville students are set to receive their honor in mid-May, in conjunction with other academic award ceremonies in the district.

Next year, Brady said several other districts across the state, including Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 and Huntley Community School District 158, are ramping up to offer the certificate program to their students.

The ability to earn the certificate is helping participating students make connections between local actions and global issues and helping them become better citizens, Smith said.

"It's always a good time," he said, "to learn about the world around you."

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Seth Brady, a comparative religions teacher at Naperville Central High School, says students pursuing the new Illinois Global Scholar Certificate have learned how to communicate across cultures and ask complex questions. Students will present their knowledge from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Little Theater at Naperville Central High School, 440 Aurora Ave. Daily Herald file photo, October 2014
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