150 young people from 15 countries have received scholarships to participate in AFS Global STEM Academies, a program that combines digital and in-person learning to help teens enrich their sustainability knowledge and STEM skills, and develop critical global competencies. The scholarships are possible thanks to bp, a global integrated energy company, which is partnering with AFS Intercultural Programs on a five-year AFS Global STEM Changemakers Initiative, aiming to provide 5,000 scholarships.
Advancing Diversity and Inclusion through Scholarships
Close to 5,500 young people applied for the AFS Global STEM Academies in 2022. Applications were open to young people (age 15 to 17.5) from 15 countries, including Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Oman, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, and the USA.
When awarding the scholarships, AFS focused on fostering diversity and inclusion in the fields of sustainability and international education, which was one of the key reasons for AFS and bp to partner on this initiative. Stats about the scholars provide further insight into how this program will make such learning opportunities available to people who usually do not have access to them:
- 80% of scholarship winners identify as People of Color,
- 66.4% identify as female or gender non-binary, and
- 24% will be the first in their families to earn a high school diploma
Combining Virtual and In-Person to Maximize Learning
From April until July 2022, the scholarship winners participated in the 12-week virtual exchange curriculum (from home), engaging in global competence skills, social impact, and sustainability workshops, with content co-developed by AFS and the University of Pennsylvania. The virtual portion of the program culminates with student-led social impact projects and presentations that offer potential solutions to real-world challenges, with an emphasis on sustainability and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including the topics of climate change and the energy transition. Program scholars earn the Advanced Certificate on Global Competence for Social Impact, awarded by AFS and the University of Pennsylvania Center for Social Impact Strategy.
After completing the virtual curriculum, Academy scholars will travel on a 4-week immersive experience to one of five Academy destinations, highlighted below. Academy programming in-person focuses on critical STEM skills and intercultural understanding for global sustainability, as well as local cultural immersion. All scholars participate in community service and have the opportunity to visit local innovative, sustainability-focused operations to see first-hand how companies and organizations are using STEM skills in practice to address industry and societal challenges. The 2022 Academy destinations include:
7 July – 31 July, 2022
Scholars are hosted in Houston, Texas, USA, known as the “Energy Capital of the World,” where they will explore innovative digital technologies including supercomputing, cybersecurity, and wind energy. Field trips include world-renowned sites such as NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Texas Medical Center (the largest of its kind in the world), and Greentown Labs, an energy hub supporting climate-tech startups for renewable energy and decarbonization. Scholars will also learn about Houston’s Climate Action Plan, and participate in a community service project to help protect the coastal habitats of Galveston Bay.
9 July – 6 August, 2022
Scholars are hosted in the coastal city of Natal, where they will explore innovations in renewable energy, biofuels, and conservation. They’ll engage with professors at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, and take field trips to the International Institute of Physics, the Brain Institute, and the Digital Metropolis Institute. This immersive Academy includes a homestay weekend with a Brazilian family, activities with Brazilian high schoolers, Portuguese language classes, and workshops to build intercultural leadership skills.
20 July – 16 August, 2022
Ancient meets modern in the city of Cairo, where scholars will explore engineering wonders such as the Great Pyramids, as well as the city’s unique environmental sustainability practices. Activities include a field trip to a thermodynamic solar plant, robotics workshops, and laboratory visits at Zewail City of Science, Technology, and Innovation, as well as community service projects at a zero-waste village. Scholars are hosted by Egyptian host families, and have the opportunity to take Arabic language classes to enrich their experience.
23 July – 20 August, 2022
Scholars are hosted in Indore, one of India’s educational and technological hubs, where they will engage in hands-on workshops in robotics and tech software, complete service leadership projects, and meet with energy industry leaders to learn more about global careers in the STEM and sustainability fields. In particular, scholars will get a hands-on look at India’s innovations in mobility, including lower-emission fuels and electric vehicle charging. With tours of Indore’s iconic landmarks and activities in music, dance, art, and yoga to round out their experience, scholars will develop a deeper understanding of India’s uniquely diverse culture and history.
BELGIUM & THE UNITED KINGDOM
25 July – 22 August, 2022
This dual-location Academy will merge sustainability, state-of-the-art technology, energy, history, and culture across Belgium and the United Kingdom. Scholars will be hosted primarily in Belgium, which will include a site visit to Antwerp harbor, the largest production port in Europe, and immersive activities at youth camps focused on science and technology. During the Academy, scholars will embark on a field trip to London, where they will learn about the City of London’s electrification of transport, experience the buzz of a financial trading floor at Canary Wharf, and explore the world-renowned Science Museum. Scholars will also travel to South Wales for a hands-on experience at Lightsource bp, a global leader in the development and management of solar energy projects.