Cultural Exchange with Bay Area Youth at Local School

During their journey in the United States, the TechWomen participants left their footprints in many places. One of the stops along the path for three TechWomen from Lebanon, Egypt and Algeria was the Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, CA. The TechWomen’s intent for this visit was to learn more about education and everyday life in the United States. What they did not expect was that this exchange would capture the hearts and minds of the students they encountered.

Upon their arrival to the school, the TechWomen took part in panel discussions with the students. One discussion was attended by thirteen well-informed eleventh and twelfth grade pupils who asked questions about topics ranging from politics and economics to society and religion. They listened intently to gain a deeper understanding of the Middle East and North Africa region. The second panel took place with an audience of thirty-seven curious seventh grade students who mulled about complex questions and vocalized their opinions about misinformed news.

Following the panel, the TechWomen had an opportunity to explore the school campus and observe lunchtime activities. One was surprised to see a group of middle school students assist during clean-up activities. Similar to the students, the TechWomen admitted that they too had arrived at the visit with a set of expectations and prejudices that were quickly dissolved.

After the visit, the students were given an assignment to reflect on the topic of stereotypes. They were asked to recall when they either stereotyped individuals or had someone typecast them.

In response to the assignment, one seventh grader wrote:

Stereotypes are dangerous because you can offend someone and then they might hold a grudge against you. When the three women from the Middle East came to our school, I assumed they would not have a lot of technology. I also thought they would not speak a lot of English. I was surprised when three businesswomen came inside Ms. Wade’s classroom. Then, they talked about how their country was almost the same as America. They also spoke about education in their countries. Surprisingly, most women chose to go to college and to work for well-known companies. I think I should not stereotype anyone because if you do not know them, then do not assume they are something because you are probably wrong.

This experience undoubtedly changed the lives of both the Emerging Leaders and the students they encountered at Crystals Springs. The TechWomen program made the world a little smaller for both of them.

TechWomen at Crystal Springs Uplands School

TechWomen with Crystal Springs Uplands School Staff

About the Crystal Springs Uplands School

Crystal Springs Uplands School is an independent is a co-ed college preparatory school for grades six through twelve. It has a student population of approximately 350.

About the Event Organizers

The event was organized by Rekha Pai-Kamath and Ms. Nicole Sorger. Rekha served as a TechWomen Professional Mentor at Juniper Networks for the 2012 TechWomen program. Her daughter attends Crystal Springs.

Nicole Sorger is a history teacher at Crystal Springs. She has a remarkable background in international development, Middle Eastern affairs, and conflict resolution. Before her career as an educator, Nicole traveled extensively in Israel and Palestine consulting on democracy assistance programs for the Palestinian Legislative Council and worked with nonprofit organizations in Ramallah.

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