Stories of Impact

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Global Minds Students Help Prepare for Future Natural Disasters 


Students from Global Minds visited Brother’s Brother Foundation this past Sunday to assemble hygiene kits that will be used to respond to future calamities. 

The youth-led organization, supported by Pittsburgh’s World Affairs Council, is active in 11 high schools in the United States and Canada. Programming at each chapter differs, but all have the overarching goal of building stronger connections between native English-speaking (NES) students and emerging multilingual learners (EMLs), who are often immigrants or refugees from foreign countries. In doing so, EML students have an easier time acclimating to their new environments and NES students broaden their cultural awareness. 

Yolanda joined her school’s Global Minds chapter in Illinois after receiving encouragement from her friend, Carlos, who was already a member. Participating in an activity that created maps and a scavenger hunt designed to help new students navigate the school made her “fall in love” with the program. 

“I like the environment and I also like how we’re helping the [EML] students in our club get more involved with things at school. They weren’t really open to it before us,” Yolanda said. 

A weekend-long camp hosted in Pittsburgh gave students from different Global Minds chapters an opportunity to meet each other, participate in workshops, and brainstorm ideas for the programs they run back home. 

The camp “helps you connect to the rest of the organization,” Carlos said. “When we started, we heard there were other parts [to Global Minds] but you think ‘we’re never really going to meet with them.’ This is a good opportunity to realize how they do different things and a good way to learn.” 

Students’ visit to BBF’s warehouse on the last day of camp gave them a hands-on way of making a difference in global communities struck by disaster, and also provided an opportunity to learn about some of the relief work being done to improve healthcare, infrastructure and education across the globe. 

“It’s a cool thing to do because if a disaster happens, then you can have the resources to go help. You’re ready.” Peyton, a student from Canada said. Her high school doesn’t have a Global Minds chapter but plans on starting one. 

Global Minds began in 2017, when a different Peyton–Peyton Klein from Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh–realized that she was sitting in front of a student in homeroom whom she had never spoken to before. 

“I made the incorrect assumption that simply because she wore a hijab and always sat quietly that she didn’t speak English,” Klein said in a Tedx Talk she gave in 2018. 

Daily conversations turned into a friendship that opened Peyton’s eyes to instances of cultural intolerance and discrimination happening at her school. She started Global Minds as an after-school program to give NES students and EML students an opportunity to connect through activities centered around topics such as diversity, sustainability and international relations. Shortly thereafter, the program gained nationwide attention, appearing in news outlets from Teen Vogue and the Today Show to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the New York Times. 

The pandemic in 2020, though, put the organization’s growth on pause. 

“Students who were leaders graduated and we lost a lot of institutional knowledge,” Mary Pancoast, the Youth Programming Coordinator for Global Minds, said. 

Pancoast, who joined the Pittsburgh World Affairs Council in February of this year, is looking forward to helping Global Minds expand and regain lost momentum. By next year, she expects it to have several more chapters, each aimed at helping students understand what Klein learned six years ago: “People are individuals, you can’t make assumptions,” Pancoast said.