Stepping out of the box and away from your comfort zone is often the push one needs to accomplish something great.
The confines of your community, school and even family can act as barriers limiting ones full potential.
Tapping into young adults to view life outside the box, non-profit organization Global Potential provides life-changing opportunities to the world’s daring future leaders.
According to Global Potential’s website, “Global Potential transforms youth from underserved communities through education, service learning and cultural exchange into globally competitive leaders of positive change in their lives and communities.”
Frank Cohn, founder, director and chief executive emeritus of Global Potential, has watched teens from low-income communities across New York City complete the program with a need to create change. “We provide young people with life-changing, transformative, leadership experiences – connecting with each other, connecting with how to make their communities better places and then taking what they learned and applying it to their own communities,” Cohn said.
Training young adults ranging in the ages of 15-23, Global Potential operates on the backs of volunteers — very few receiving stipends as the budget solely services programming.
Sending cohorts of students to participate in underserved communities in countries such as the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, Global Potential has for the first time brought a cohort of students to the United States from Haiti.
Courtesy of funding from U.S. Department of State, Global Potential has immersed 15 young people from various villages into a Northeast experience – traveling to Washington, D.C., Boston and completing their three-week trip in New York.
“Here, for the first time, we are also partnering with the U.S. Department of State who are funding this program to bring 15 youth ambassadors from Haiti. It’s a three-week program in the Northeast of the U.S. visiting D.C., Boston and New York,” Cohn said.
Wendy Reynoso, executive director at Global Potential, views the opportunities presented allows for students to expand their frame of thinking beyond their familiar quarters. “What they now have experienced is an opportunity to travel and they will most likely travel again and continue to see the world and to understand the impact of their time in other places. Not just what they can receive but what they can give to other communities,” Reynoso said.
Leading the insightful trip — days are filled with trips to prominent landmarks such as Columbus Circle, Washington DC, educational visits to Deloitte and general fun — is Global Potential alum, 20-year-old Haitian native, Mackendy Blanc.
Blanc was born in Haiti and migrated to the United States as a young child. He participated in the program where he actually returned to Haiti participating in service there. “There’s a myth that when I first started that I was shy – it’s true but some people think it’s a myth,” Blanc said.
Now, the boisterous Blanc is leading an equally boisterous group alongside 23-year-old Haitian native Livenski Talcius as program coordinators.
With their own experiences as students — Talcius participated in the program where he served in the Dominican Republic — their worldviews have shifted to look at the world critically. “When I returned back from the change, my view of the world did not necessarily change but it was broadened. I became a lot more conscious about the things that affect the lives of those in Haiti and in the DR who live in the country in places with no name on the island. That was really a transformative experience for me,” Talcius said.
Both young men are learning about themselves as leaders and social change agents as they lead this group of 15 Haitian students.
“There’s always that saying that there’s a time and place for everything and I like to joke around way too much and sometimes that gets in the way of my work. The students and I really play too much and that makes me self-reflect like ‘ok, now it’s time to stop playing, focus and get things done.’ Then we can play. They’ve been teaching me there’s a time and place for everything,” Blanc said.
For the students, all of which have never traveled outside of their communities in Haiti, this experience has opened their eyes to reveal that the pursuit of the American Dream does not particularly mean America is without poverty.
The experience with GP has been very educating as well as a lot of fun visiting places. “It’s great to be with GP,” Andy Adolphe, a student, said. “Before I had this illusion about the United States being a paradise and traveling with GP I realized there is another side of the United States that I never knew. People who live in poverty and that is one thing I didn’t know about the United States.”
“I used to think the United States is a paradise but just like in Haiti or other places in the world there are people in the streets begging for food and homeless. I never thought I’d see that in the states and to see it is very shocking,” Pierre Richards Fils-Aime, a student, added.
“In this week of exploring NYC and the different areas that are here they will also see that poverty looks different everywhere you go. I think it’s just a lot of learning lessons. Where they are now is going to be so totally different than where they will be at the end of this journey,” Reynoso added.
With these new experiences, the students have taken photos and videos of their journey with plans to share them with their friends, families and community.
Like Talcius did with his time in the Dominican Republic, the students are considering creating documentaries to share their experience.
“From everything I learned from D.C., Boston and New York, I hope to bring all of these experiences back to Haiti and share it with youth in his community to help them realize that the image of the United States is not reality,” Fils-Aime, said. “Also, the skills I’ve learned I want to share it with them to help the community progress.”
“My goal is to go back to Haiti and give them further knowledge about the United States. I want to make a documentary to project every precious moment I’ve lived here in the states whether it’s of the museums or the different sites I’ve visited,” Bastien Yves-Lardine, a student, said.
Before the students conclude their trip and return to Haiti, they will end the program with a youth conference tackling social issues and how they can change those issues.
Combining all they have learned and experienced, the first Haitian cohort of Global Potential will return with their newfound knowledge charged and read to effect change in their own backyards.
“You should watch all these young leaders in the future because they’re up and coming and are going to be making big impacts in their communities,” Cohn said.
“We build leaders who become social change agents for themselves, their local communities and communities abroad. They will walk out with a plan of action,” Reynoso said.
To volunteer or participate in Global Potential, visit their website www.globa