Spotlight: Summer 2022 Learning Life Interns

Learning Life’s interns do vital work responsible for the energy and growth of our organization.  This summer, their work included outreach to thousands of people on Facebook and Linkedin to help grow the Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI) worldwide, and the Democracy Learning Community in metro Washington DC; developing lists of people to invite and engage in learning communities; research on family law and history as well as for Learning Life’s theory of social change; fundraising research and outreach; plus poster design and social media communications.  Learning Life is very grateful for their dedicated work.  You can learn a little about each of them below.

Anna Benson

Year, major, and school: I am a rising senior at Gettysburg College majoring in Public Policy, International & Global Studies, and Spanish.

Hobbies: I enjoy spending my free time with friends and in the outdoors hiking, swimming, and exploring new areas. I love working with kids and have spent the past five years working as a swim teacher and in an after-school program. I am also passionate about language learning, so I love getting the chance to travel and practice my Spanish.

Career aspirations: I am interested in working in the education field, either in education policy or as a classroom teacher. I hope to work abroad either in Spain or Latin America in the years after graduation. I am very passionate about education initiatives and am thankful that Learning Life is teaching me all the ways education can be incorporated into a career, even if it is not necessarily in a traditional classroom setting.

Why Learning Life? I am inspired by Learning Life’s grassroots approach to advocacy work that recognizes the strength of community and the power that human connection has to drive learning, democracy, and change. I also love getting the chance to connect with people across the globe through the Family Diplomacy Initiative. It truly has been a great way to learn and share with people from all different countries and backgrounds.

Sarah DeCaro-Rincon

Year, major, and school: I am a rising senior at Sarah Lawrence College, studying International Relations and Political Science.

Hobbies: I like partaking in outdoor activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, biking, and hiking. I also enjoy playing a few musical instruments when I have the time and money, like the drums, guitar, and piano.

Career aspirations: I aspire to become a Foreign Service Officer and work for the State Department. I have always been interested in world affairs, and my love for travel, learning about different cultures, and how culture impacts politics has inspired me to follow this career path.

Why Learning Life?  I decided to join Learning Life because of the way the organization is changing how people define what diplomacy is and who engages in it. Diplomacy can be seen as a concept far from the lives of everyday people, but Learning Life is demonstrating otherwise. By inspiring international learning and engagement, for youth and adults, outside the classroom, Learning Life is teaching people that they too can be diplomats. I think this is an important step toward making diplomacy, and international affairs in general, more accessible worldwide.

Jenalyn Dizon

Year, major, and school: I am a second-year undergraduate student at Virginia Tech studying Sociology and Psychology.

Hobbies: I enjoy dancing, going to the gym, studying at bakeries, and seeing live theatre whenever I get the chance. I will also often spend hours on a good crossword puzzle.

Career aspirations: I am interested in researching the intersections of psychopathology, domestic violence, and other familial, romantic, and social relationship dynamics. I hope to attend a graduate school program after I finish my Bachelor’s and then move into a career in clinical psychology or family social work. 

Why Learning Life?  Family social work sees families in all different shapes, sizes, and situations, and Learning Life has allowed me to explore and understand families on a global scale. I had shied away from diplomacy and politics work in the past, but my experience here has broadened my perspective and taught me just how relevant it is to my field of interest. It has also been great to experience the inner-workings of a non-profit organization as an intern to see where and how I might apply my education in the future.

Fatima Elescano

Year, major, and school: I am a first-generation junior at George Mason University majoring in psychology.

Hobbies: I really enjoy spending time with my family in my free time, as I am very family-oriented. My parents and I are very close to my extended family, which we see almost every weekend. I also love listening to music, going out with my friends, and trying new foods, like onigiri (Japanese rice balls).  I have recently started to get more into cooking, particularly Peruvian dishes like lomo saltado (stir-fried beef, often with onions, tomatoes, French fries and/or rice) and aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a cream sauce commonly made of walnuts or pecans, parmesan and aji peppers).

Career aspirations: Since I am a first-generation college student, it is very important for me to finish college and get my degree. I see myself working in the field of psychology, specifically as a therapist. 

Why Learning Life?  I joined Learning Life because I was very interested in how involved they are in learning about different cultures, families, and education. I saw this internship as a wonderful opportunity to gain more experience and knowledge about other cultures, democracy, education, and diplomacy. I am grateful to be a part of it and to gain local and global connections through it.

Mae Long

Year, major, and school: I’m a rising junior with a double major in International Studies and Russian Studies at Vassar College.

Hobbies: I enjoy hiking, playing with my dogs, and exploring abandoned buildings and ghost towns. I love doing research on random topics in my spare time and diving into random information rabbit holes. Recently, I learned about the origins of Groundhog Day and the way the tradition of a small town became a nationwide holiday.

Career aspirations: Ideally, I would love to be a diplomat or work with the State Department in any capacity that involves peacebuilding.  I have a special interest in gender equality and reproductive health access, and ensuring that those things are common globally.  Some day, I would love to work with the United Nations!

Why Learning Life? I chose Learning Life because I have a strong interest in pursuing various types of international dialogue. I found their citizen diplomacy model engaging families to be especially fascinating. This particularly resonated with me as I believe family is incredibly important not only to the individual, but to each country’s development and culture. Involving families in diplomacy is a logical, yet largely undeveloped path in international dialogue.

Ava McClure

Year, Major and school: I am a rising junior at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, studying political science and gender and sexuality studies.

Hobbies: I enjoy rock climbing, art, music, and anime! I am watching One Piece (a Japanese manga comic book series) right now and I love it. My family also fosters dogs so I love to help take care of the dogs, as well as our pets: a dog named Copley, and a cat named Maurice.

Career aspirations: After graduating from Vassar, I would like to get into politics by working for a political advocacy nonprofit, in state government, or in the federal government. My focus in political science is on how politics impact women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized people.

Why Learning Life? I was intrigued by the democracy side of Learning Life and how it fosters communication and collaboration, especially in such a divided political climate. I am also impressed by its commitment to making education available and accessible to all, because as a college student, I understand how income and wealth gaps make higher education less accessible.

Maryam Pate

Year, major, and school: I am a junior at Columbia University majoring in Economics with a minor in Computer Science.

Hobbies: In my free time I’m usually reading.  Recently, I’ve been reading memoirs about politicians, academics, musicians and ordinary people.  Otherwise, I like being outdoors, usually on a long run near any body of water.  I also enjoy road tripping across the USA.  So far I’ve been to 38 states and am hoping to go see more!  At Columbia, I’m involved with the entrepreneurship ecosystem, so I love to attend events to hear founders speak and workshops on early stage entrepreneurship.  At the start of the pandemic, I started to bake almost every day.  I began with cakes and cupcakes exclusively but after some improvement, I now like to make tarts, pies, and most recently, angel food cake.

Career aspirations: I hope to impact economic development, particularly in Africa, once I advance in my career and do so by merging my interests in entrepreneurship and technology.  I’m especially interested in women’s economic empowerment and ways entrepreneurship can accelerate that.  I want to understand the supply of capital for these efforts from the investor side and ultimately launch my own venture with tangible social impact.

Why Learning Life? I chose to intern at Learning Life because I was extremely curious about family diplomacy and the impact it can have in empowering individuals to work together to address inequalities they or their communities face. It has also been an especially valuable opportunity because of Learning Life’s integration within D.C.’s public and private sectors, offering me a great deal of understanding of the position and role of a nonprofit within this.

Alexandra Ravano

Year, major, and school: I’m a rising senior at George Washington University.  I’m currently studying International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict Resolution and a minor in Psychology.

Hobbies: Some of my favorite things to do in my free time are fencing and dance, especially Filipino cultural dance. I love sharing my Filipino culture with those around me and teaching others about my heritage. But above all, I love spending time with family and friends!

Career aspirations: In the future, I hope to attend graduate school for international affairs and eventually attend law school, specializing in either human rights or humanitarian law.  I am particularly interested in working for humanitarian organizations and organizations that assist refugees. In the future, I also hope to combine my interests in international affairs and psychology and better understand the intersection between the two.  Overall, I hope that I am able to make an impact and help as many people as possible in my future career!

Why Learning Life? Family has always been such an important aspect of my life, and when I first heard of Learning Life’s mission — particularly with the Family Diplomacy Initiative — I was immediately drawn towards the organization. My family has always taught us the value and importance of diverse backgrounds and thinking, and being able to learn about so many different cultures and perspectives around the world through Learning Life has been an enriching experience. I have also been very excited to apply what I have learned in the classroom to work through Learning Life. I have really enjoyed my time with Learning Life and am grateful for the opportunity to learn more!

Emma Tomaszewski

Year, major, and school: I am a senior attending the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, majoring in legal studies and sociology. 

Hobbies: I like going thrift shopping with my best friends, hiking in the mountains in western Massachusetts, and cooking dinner with my roommates. 

Career aspirations: After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I plan to attend law school in hopes of studying family law and working as a family law attorney. In addition to family law, I plan to practice child advocacy law pro bono. After understanding and working with the law, I plan to get more involved in policy and better the system by examining policies that address the family. 

Why Learning Life? The Family Diplomacy Initiative is what attracted me at first. As someone who cares deeply about family, I believe that it is essential to empower families to be able to advocate for themselves. While interning with Learning Life, I have learned a great deal about different cultures, issues, values, and so much more just by attending and engaging in the international family diplomacy Zoom meetings. In addition, the innovative ideas that Learning Life brings forward, such as democracy festivals and the Democracy Learning Community, make me hopeful that more citizens will understand and be involved in our democracy. 

Avanti Tulpule

Year, major, and school: I am a rising senior at Columbia University studying Political Science, with a focus on International Relations and Comparative Politics, and a special concentration in Education.

Hobbies: My favorite subjects in school are physics and philosophy. I also enjoy discovering music in different languages, learning about art history, and painting.

Career aspirations: I hope to attend law school in the near future. Eventually, I would love to help children as they navigate the immigration process and pursue education – things that I believe will become increasingly urgent in the coming years due to the worsening climate crisis.

Why Learning Life?  Learning Life’s ability to connect thousands of people from different cultures, linguistic backgrounds, and family structures was what first compelled me to apply to the internship program. As nationalism continues to polarize and fracture cross-cultural relationships, and as the world becomes increasingly stratified across socioeconomic lines, Learning Life’s mission to foster international dialogues about the values we all share is essential to diplomacy. Moreover, Learning Life’s focus on non-hierarchical democratic participation, respect for various family structures, as opposed to enforcing a Western conception of “family” for all countries, and prioritization of equitable education access all appeal to me greatly.

 

Phase 2 of Family Diplomacy Initiative Begins

Learning Life is pleased to announce the launch today of Phase 2 of our Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI).  

On Sunday, July 10, a total of twenty-eight people from 17 countries — Burundi, China, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, India, Italy, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, USA and Zimbabwe — participated in the first day of Learning Life’s new FDI Family Diplomat (FD) Training.  In this first day, Learning Life founder, Paul Lachelier, explained FDI and the training, then participants introduced themselves then filled out the pre-survey that will help Learning Life evaluate the impact of our FD Training.  You can watch a video of this first meeting here.  

Launched in 2016, FDI is an ambitious, long-term effort to connect, train and empower families to participate in decision-making at local to global levels.  We envision a world more connected and caring because every family has one or more family diplomats, and those citizen diplomats advocate effectively via nonprofits, businesses, media and governments for the needs, concerns and aspirations of families worldwide.  In Phase 1 of FDI, from 2016 to 2021, Learning Life engaged families in different nations in live dialogues via Zoom, and asynchronous dialogues via our FDI Facebook Group to learn about each other.  In Phase 2, starting this July, motivated volunteers across the world are getting training as family diplomats (FDs).  Phase 3, the final phase of FDI’s development, will connect trained FDs with nonprofits, businesses, governments and media in order to advocate for the needs, concerns and aspirations of different families across the world. 

The training in 2022 will occur in two parts.  Part 1, every Sunday, 12:00-1:30pm New York time from July 10 to August 21, will focus on developing FDs’ knowledge about citizen diplomacy plus trends, patterns and issues in family life worldwide.  Part 2, every Sunday, 12:00-1:30pm New York time from August 28 to October 23, will focus on developing their storytelling skills as FDs create, practice then ultimately perform a family story live online in front of an international audience.   

To learn more about the training, click here.  To learn more about FDI’s three phases and the thinking behind family diplomacy, click here.  To participate in the FD training, do these three things: (1) fill out this FD application survey, (2) complete this training pre-survey, and (3) stay tuned to our FDI Facebook Group for the Zoom link for the FD Training meetings.      

 

First Animated Video About Family Diplomacy

Learning Life is thrilled to present our very first animated video! The 2.5 minute video explains Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative as FDI this month enters its second phase of development.  

Launched in 2016, FDI is an ambitious, long-term effort to connect, train and empower families to participate in decision-making at local to global levels.  We envision a world more connected and caring because every family has one or more family diplomats, and those citizen diplomats advocate effectively via nonprofits, businesses, media and governments for the needs, concerns and aspirations of families worldwide.  In Phase 1 of FDI, from 2016 to 2021, Learning Life engaged families in different nations in live dialogues via Zoom, and asynchronous dialogues via our FDI Facebook Group to learn about each other.  In Phase 2, starting this July, motivated volunteers across the world are getting training as family diplomats (FDs).  Phase 3, the final phase of FDI’s development, will connect trained FDs with nonprofits, businesses, governments and media in order to advocate for the needs, concerns and aspirations of different families across the world.    

We are pleased to release this new animated video, linked below, in tandem with the start of Phase 2 in order to help promote and grow FDI.  “Family diplomacy is a global learning community and social movement any motivated person ages 14 and older with internet access and English speaking ability can take part in to help build a more caring world,” said Paul Lachelier, Learning Life’s founder and director.   

For ten months, from August 2021 to June 2022, a team of volunteers including Lachelier and talented interns, Rachel Farzan, Maria Lujan (both from Virginia Commonwealth University), and Yutong Jiang (George Washington University) worked steadily together to produce the video.  Learning Life is enormously thankful for their work.    

Learn more about FDI’s three phases, Phase 1’s different dialogue projects and their impact, the thinking behind family diplomacy, and how you can get involved via our FDI page

Learning Life Finalist for National “Civvys” Award

This week, the Bridge Alliance announced the finalists for the fifth annual American Civic Collaboration Awards, or “Civvys,” as they have come to be known. 

The Civvys are the only national awards program dedicated to celebrating projects that emphasize working together across divides to strengthen communities and empower citizens. By leveraging collaboration as a core strength, these initiatives put community and nation before party, ideology, and narrow interests, embodying a civic spirit that inspires other Americans to take action. This year, in addition to collaboration, impact and scalability, award criteria included an emphasis on building a more diverse and equitable America.

From a record number of nominees, the Civvys Awards Committee announced 16 finalists, across three categories: National, Local and Youth: 

National Category

  • Latinx House
  • SensibleSchool, Inc.
  • VoteAmerica
  • AllVoteNoPlay.org Civic Playbook
  • American Democracy Project

Local

  • Uniting for Action on the Maryland Economy
  • GenUnity
  • Voters First Virginia
  • Learning Life
  • Environmental Justice Coalition
  • NC Leadership Forum at Duke University

Youth

  • Certell Inc
  • Kids Voting Durham
  • Green Our Planet’s Farmpreneur Program
  • American Public Square at Jewell: Civics Education Initiative
  • Kentucky YMCA Youth Association

Learning Life was recognized for its work in building the metro Washington DC Democracy Learning Community (DMV DLC), starting with its regular Democracy Dinners in June 2019.  Learning Life has used the Dinners to build a network of over 4,000 democracy sector professionals in the Washington DC metro area whom we invite to the Dinners.  Close to 200 people have participated in the Dinners since June 2019, some repeatedly.  In 2022, Learning Life is drawing on that growing Dinners network plus further outreach and research to plan for the next steps in the development of the DLC.  A vision and action plan is scheduled for release in January 2023.  For ways to connect and get involved in the development of the DLC, click the DMV DLC link above.   

For more information about the Civvys Award, contact Sachi Bajaj at sachi@bridgealliance.us.