National to international: UYA sends 10 teens to Beijing

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by Derrick McCain Jr.

Urban Youth Action, Inc. and the Pittsburgh Project, recently sponsored a trip to Beijing, China, for 10 students to promote cultural exploration and encourage youth to keep their minds open in terms of the future.

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FROM CHINA—The teens from UYA who visited China. From left: Nashanda Washington-Green, Darian Smith, Kacee Coffey, Kyle Wasler, Shealyn Williamson, Isiah Williams, Kenya Jordan-Jackson, Nyjel Brown, Atiya Irvin-Mitchell and Morgan Burton. (Photos by J.L. Martello).

“We have three objectives: global career exploration, cultural immersion and exchange and service projects,” said Benjamin Walker, program director of UYA. As both a student who traveled and an administrator for trips he went to in college, he brought ideas about traveling to UYA in 2007, and the plans started finalizing in 2008. With local companies, including Westinghouse Nuclear Energy, PNC and Alcoa, students were shown the business aspect from the home front and then were introduced to the branches that they were to operate in China.

“I heard about it from a PowerPoint,” Nyjel Brown, a student from Schenley said when he was informed about the trip. He and the other students had to write an essay and be interviewed to become eligible.

Other than their service learning which was experiencing business aspects of China and the U. S., they took part in several activities outside of the objective, from visiting the Great Wall of China to engaging with some street dancers.

He also said he learned that some stereotypes were true while others were false. Specifically, he found the vast population to be proven true while the idea that everybody there was healthy to be somewhat false.

“The one thing I want you to walk away with is being able to master the art of inquiry,” said Walker, hoping the students would realize that they were free to roam about the world making a living and a difference with people of all languages and genders and nationalities. When all was said and done, members of UYA said the students left the experience more mature. He also said not only the students, but the residents of Beijing benefitted from meeting people of different cultures.

“I would love to have more structure interactions,“ he said. The only criticism of the trip he said was that next year they were planning to go to South Africa and he hoped businesses and organizations in Pittsburgh would be supportive.

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