Storytelling, leadership building inspire students to create change in their communities

Reynolds School of Journalism works with Algerian Youth Leadership Program

Twenty-five Algerian students visited the Reynolds School of Journalism to learn how to build their skills as leaders and tell stories through video.

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9/5/2018 | By: Jessica Fagundes |

When 25 of the brightest Algerian high school students traveled more than 6,000 miles to Reno for the Algerian Youth Leadership Program (AYLP), it was a strong reminder that students around the world are connected.

 "Just to see the potential, to see already how skillful and how meaningful their work already is, is just a reminder of our connectedness in the world and how much potential this new generation has," Reynolds School of Journalism professor Nico Colombant said. 

The AYLP is a four-week leadership and civic engagement program sponsored by the United States Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Northern Nevada International Center. The Reynolds School is one of the program's teaching partners.  

During the tenth AYLP held in August 2018, participants engaged in workshops on leadership and service and visited Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, the Eddy House YOUth Resource Center and the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum. They also participated in interactive training and discussion groups, small group work, presentations, local cultural activities and homestays with American families. The students ended their time in Reno with closing ceremonies where they aired their final AYLP video project.    

Reynolds School professors, Colombant and Todd Felts, spent the first two weeks of the program with the students. Felts has worked with the AYLP for nine years, teaching about social media and leadership. This year, he helped students build leadership skills through various team-building activities.  

"In the leadership component, our three-legged stool is built around this idea of understanding ourselves and how we work with others," Felts said.  

During their leadership sessions, participants learned about different personality types, developed their skills as leaders, built a machine as a group and discussed how they could apply all the lessons learned to their projects in Algeria.  

"The students really go from kids right out of high school to leaders in a matter of the four-week period that they are in America and you really see them grow up," Felts said.  

Colombant joined the AYLP program in 2017. His role, this year, was to teach video storytelling and to help produce and edit the final AYLP video project. He educated the participants about interviewing, developing themes and story angles, creating storyboards, and editing their footage. The sessions helped students professionalize their work.  

"I always try to teach what I call the grammar of video because sometimes they're very much free thinkers or free creators and I try to professionalize their work - not to take away their voice but to allow them a broader scope of opportunities by knowing that grammar of video," Colombant said.  

Reynolds School undergraduate students, Emily Hodge and Lucia Starbuck, graduate student, Cassidy Bowman, and alumni, Marquis Lawson and Kristin Mitra, assisted with this year's program. Hodge, Starbuck and Bowman served as AYLP global ambassadors, helping with the facilitation of the trainings, video filming and documentary editing. Lawson and Mitra, along with Boualem Nabti, worked as AYLP program counselors for NNIC program coordinator Stacy Kinion.

The AYLP experience offered great learning opportunities for not only the participants but also for the students and program staff.

Reynolds School undergraduate students, Emily Hodge and Lucia Starbuck, graduate student, Cassidy Bowman, and alumnus, Marquis Lawson, assisted with this year's program. Hodge, Starbuck and Bowman served as AYLP global ambassadors, helping with the facilitation of the trainings, video filming and documentary editing. Lawson was an AYLP program counselor.  

The AYLP experience offered great learning opportunities for not only the participants but also the Reynolds School students and alumni.  

"I decided to become a global ambassador because I wanted to get better at leading and teaching students leadership and video skills all while growing my video skills," Starbuck said. "I was extremely excited to make my first documentary of their experience at the Reynolds School of Journalism because that is what I want to do in the future."  

Starbuck's mini-documentary showcased nine of the AYLP participants when they visited the Discovery Museum.  

"This was a super-intelligent, caring and fun group of students, and I'm honored to know them. It was fun learning about another culture while sharing mine," Starbuck said.  

Lawson, Mitra and Nabti spent all four weeks with the AYLP participants, helping with social issues and providing a listening ear. Lawson said he left the program with 25 new friends and a new outlook on his future career.    

"My favorite part of spending time with the students was hearing their stories," Lawson said. "Stories of courage, strength and bravery. It has inspired me as a Reynolds School graduate to go on a journey of exploration and to become a change maker." 

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