Here at the World Affairs Council – Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, it is our mission to bring a piece of the world to your doorstep whether that is in the classroom, local business or your home. Many opportunities to discuss human rights around the world exist right here at home, from engaging with visitors from India or learning a bit of the Mandarin language from a Chinese international student to having dinner with visitors from Saudi Arabia, just to name a few.

The Council is the premier international nonprofit organization that connects the world to one of America’s most vibrant regions. Through global education, professional exchange programs and cultural initiatives, the Council strives to enhance our community’s global story and engage conversations for diversity and inclusion efforts. As the local leader in the nationwide effort to involve citizens in international public diplomacy and promote global understanding, the World Affairs Council has enriched students’ lives and ignited curiosity around the world.

Since its start in 1923, the World Affairs Council’s global education work has sought to enrich the lives of the Greater Cincinnati community from ages 3 to adult. It is this focus on discussing foreign affairs, meeting emerging leaders from around the world or designing global art with kids that leads to building a stronger empathy and respect for all. 

When I began my career with the World Affairs Council, there were few global programs offered to schools in the area and there was not a large focus on serving students, with only about 500 high school students reached each year. Over the last nine years, the diversity in student populations and neighborhood demographics has shifted significantly. Teachers, principals and superintendents once came to the Council asking for help to develop students’ global competency and global learning opportunities to meet the changing needs of the 21st century. Since then, there have been strides taken to add global programming for students starting at age three, and now the World Affairs Council reaches about 6,000 students each year. Programs range from introducing global careers to meeting people from Japan to learning about media and foreign policy.

New global learning initiatives have been dedicated to working with young learners. I remember walking into a second-grade classroom for the first time and learning that many students in this area had never left their own neighborhoods. How can anyone be thinking about exploring the pyramids in Egypt when you have never crossed the Ohio River? The World Affairs Council developed an interactive educational map game for students to play called Build the World. This is critical to helping students discover that there is a bigger world beyond their backyard, and they can aspire to see it. It is about igniting the curiosity which fuels students to envision themselves visiting faraway places and interacting with people they never knew existed.

The World Affairs Council’s premier education program, Global Classroom, creates face-to-face interactions between local students and international scholars who both benefit from a genuine connection to cultural diversity. Scholars engage students with presentations on comparative culture, global stereotypes and upbringing. These experiences provide unparalleled opportunities for students to explore the world and discover their place in it. In 2018, to further develop students’ awareness and understanding of being a global citizen, the program expanded to incorporate art education projects focusing on creating Chinese lanterns, Origami from Japanese culture, Rangoli from Indian culture, and Mexican Sugar Skulls. This program alone reached 851 students in nine schools.

Throughout 2019, the World Affairs Council expanded to include opportunities for global literacy, providing a platform to partner with The Cincinnati Public Library. This program will create opportunities for students’ future success. 

Of course, this cannot be done alone. The World Affairs Council’s supporters never miss the opportunity to connect and play international trivia at its annual fundraiser, One World Gala. At the seventh annual event on March 6, companies and individuals will form teams to compete in the trivia challenge.

It’s “Jeopardy” meets “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”

As we approach one of my favorite evenings of the year, I like to reflect on where we have been and how we are impacting this region. This community has truly transformed over the past seven years since this event started. 

Through the support at the Gala, global education services have impacted 31,000 students. Given the growing need for empathy and the cultural changes in neighborhoods (including schools), there is a continued value to expand this work. 

I love that we celebrate together on this evening to raise dollars to give access to our underserved student population while playing and learning about cultures and foreign affairs through a trivia game. It is loud, engaging, and truly fun for all. You don’t need to be a global know-it-all to enjoy this night, you just need to be interested in having a great time with friends and colleagues while soaking up some global fast facts and fun.

The World Affairs Council would like to say thank you to The Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation for continued support as the Title Sponsor of the Gala. There are sponsorship opportunities available for businesses, which add value to your international brand and motivates employees to be globally competent. You don’t have to be part of a business to join in the fun. Individual tickets are also available to purchase. 

All participants gain more than just bragging rights in this global game of wit. Furthermore, you will be playing against the winning high school team from our local competition, Academic WorldQuest, a national knowledge competition for schools across the U.S. High school students and their teachers will play this evening which keeps things very interesting. In 2019, the high school team got 2nd place! 

Form your team today and play a part in this highly anticipated event supporting ongoing educational programs that help students live, work, and lead globally on March 6 at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel by going to www.oneworldgala.com.

The World Affairs Council serves over 6,000 students in this region each year which is about 5% of students. Your help is needed to grow strategically to improve more lives of local students and make this world a better place together. Global competence is no longer just a “soft skill.” It is an educational imperative as today’s students enter a vastly different world from that of the 20th century. 

World Affairs Council – Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky is located at Northern Kentucky University NH, 309 Highland Heights, KY 41099. For more information, call 859.448.8984, email Michelle Harpenau, Executive Director, at mharpenau@cincyworldaffairs.org, or visit www.globalcincinnati.org, or www.oneworldgala.com.