Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder is founded on a simple concept: for the next generation of high school students to be effective global citizens, they need direct experience engaging their intellects, curiosity, and senses of obligation by working with organizations that are in the field, addressing fundamental issues related to endemic poverty. Guided by bright, globally-minded trip leaders, we believe that these experiences are inherently creative, energetic, idealistic, and bold enough to generate worldviews shaped by universal values of justice, responsibility, and compassion. Our purpose remains to compel students from around the world toward a clear, hope-inspired vision of how to confront what we call the paralysis of enormity – the futile feeling of looking at a global challenge that seems too big and too entrenched to even approach.
“Participants of SSS are not on vacation. In less than desirable circumstances, participants are quickly assimilated into local culture, working in teams to improve the living condition of the local population. In addition, personal relationships between participants, residents, and staff are created, forming bonds that will last a lifetime.” This quotation reflects many parents’ perspectives on our experiential program. When I combine it with this parent’s anonymous feedback, “my child came home more reflective and thoughtful regarding our world and her place in it,” I move forward with confidence that the limits of Students Shoulder to Shoulder are as boundless as the possibilities of this generation’s worldview.
Robert A. Bandoni
After a working relationship is established with a sponsoring NGO, a trip leader is selected and charged with developing pre-trip educational experiences. Through learning modules that include seminars, presentations from field experts, and discussions of pertinent literature, students develop insight into their particular trip’s purpose through exposure to and consideration of the economic, cultural, ethical, political, and geographic variables that contribute to issues endemic poverty. The “Five lenses of SStS” learning framework is enhanced throughout the trip with evening reflections, journal writing, meetings with in-country leaders, project work with locals, and student-led discussions. During the trip and following its conclusion, students construct a presentation for their schools, the general public, and, when possible, younger (elementary) students. In these assemblies, SStS students share their experience through the “five lenses.”