Helping Future Leaders To Become Future Changemakers

by Sean Reilly Sponsored Programs Manager, AFS intercultural Programs

AFS is proud to present Future Changemakers: a special virtual edition of the Future Leaders program for young people from Finland and the USA. In this inaugural program, 60 Finnish and American students will receive scholarships to participate in a virtual exchange curriculum focused on active global citizenship  and civic responsibility. 

In 2020 and 2021, the Future Leaders program had to be postponed, and ultimately canceled, due to ongoing complications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seizing the opportunity to innovate, AFS Finland, AFS-USA, and the program funders collaborated with AFS International to reimagine the program as a special virtual edition, Future Changemakers. Now, a total of 60 Finnish and American young people will inaugurate the virtual edition of the program. 

From May 18 through August 10, 2021, the 60 Future Changemakers will complete a virtual exchange curriculum developed by AFS & the University of Pennsylvania Center for Social Impact Strategy, participate in live dialogue sessions with trained AFS facilitators, develop independent social impact projects that will be certified by the University of Pennsylvania Center or Social Impact Strategy. The scholars are also invited to attend special virtual visits hosted by the Finnish National Agency for Education, the US Embassy in Helsinki, the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C. and other program partners. 

The Future Changemakers curriculum is based on the  AFS Global You Changemaker program, a 12-week virtual exchange program that teaches social impact skills to 15-17-year-olds from around the world in diverse, multinational cohorts. The program includes 18 self-paced learning modules, six live facilitated dialogue sessions, virtual activities, and a social innovation capstone workshop. Upon completion of the program, students earn the Advanced Certificate on Global Citizenship for Social Impact, issued by AFS and the University of Pennsylvania Center for Social Impact Strategy. 

About Future Leaders

The Future Leaders program is a full-scholarship exchange program to promote exchange between Finland and the United States and to give young people the opportunity to experience Finnish and American society more deeply. AFS Finland and AFS-USA have collaborated on the Future Leaders program since 2017, and the program is funded by the EDUFI (Finnish National Agency for Education) and the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki. Prior to the pandemic, 15 Finnish students would spend 6 weeks in Washington, D.C., and reciprocally, 15 American students would spend 6 weeks in Finland. The scholars live with American and Finnish host families and participate in activities to strengthen leadership skills and inspire civic and global responsibility. 

Each fall the program has received applications from hundreds of motivated students from Finland and the USA. Students submit either an essay or a video where they explain how they would contribute to a better world. The selection committee consists of AFS volunteers (including teachers and Future Leaders alumni) who invite semi-finalists to an interview round, and then select the 30 strongest applicants (15 from Finland, and 15 from the USA) to offer the scholarship.