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Policy Pathways Ignites Enthusiasm for International Affairs in High School and Early College Students

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Dr. D. Pulane Lucas and Gretchen Kent
September 30, 2022

  • Climate Information for Disaster Risk Management During Monsoon Season in Central Vietnam
  • Water, Sanitation and Sustainable Communities in Rural Ghana
  • An Analysis of The Russia-Ukraine Conflict and Possible Solutions
  • Climate Change and the Restoration of Depleted Forests to Build Food Security in Ghana
  • China’s Engagement in Africa

These are the subjects and titles of Capstone projects completed by students in Policy Pathways’ college preparatory programs. It is these contemporary international affairs challenges that students have analyzed and proposed solutions.

Studying international affairs in college right now is more exciting than any other time in history. Astonishing advances in technology, communication and transportation afford students and faculty members opportunities to connect with others around the world like never before. Yet, the subject matter is not taught in a comprehensive manner to many high school students, delaying their exposure to critical information and knowledge on the status of foreign nations and their interconnectedness. A number of high school students, particularly those from historically marginalized communities, are not introduced to how nations formulate public and foreign policies until they are in college or graduate school.

The once-daunting concept of globalization is now at the lay-person’s fingertips, with a play-by-play of other countries’ happenings on rotation in our morning news feeds. What happens in one country very far away impacts us all—often on a local level. With so much to contribute and fight for, it is critical that our nation’s youth appreciate the intersectionality of disciplines as regards the world’s issues so that they might begin to forge a brighter future for the earth and its peoples. It also is more important now than ever for the world’s governmental agencies to create fair, interdisciplinary policies.

Policy Pathways is exposing youth and young adults to the world of policy formation on a local, national and international level. The Richmond, Virginia-based nonprofit offers programs that uncover how policymakers approach, think about and solve problems while developing students’ creative thinking, collaboration, critical thinking, communication and citizenship skills. Studying the intricacies of foreign geography, resources, cultures and structures is of great importance to students’ understanding of the interconnectedness of people and global issues.

On June 9, 2022, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) students in the Spring Shaping our Future: Policy Pathways college preparatory course presented their final projects on national and international real-world challenges. Six Huguenot High School students presented their project “Special Military Operation: World Tour, An Analysis of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict and Possible Solutions” under the tutelage of Capstone site representative Dr. Nazira Bolat, UCLA Luskin School of Public Policy.

Policy Pathways is honored to partner with the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Sunyani, Ghana, and the Commonwealth (VA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. Policy Pathways, partnering with The Commonwealth (VA) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, is making great bounds in focusing the attention of high schoolers on topics related to international affairs. Front and center in that endeavor is Dr. Nana Sarfo Agyemang Derkyi, associate professor of chemical engineering and the dean of the School of Engineering in the Department of Energy and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Sunyani, Ghana. He presented two lectures on Ghana, climate change and energy policy to RPS students that were sponsored by The Commonwealth (VA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.

Derkyi’s subject matter is firmly seated in The Links’ LIFE Program (Links International Foreign Affairs and Business Empowerment for Youth) and Policy Pathways’ programmatic offerings. The LIFE program exposes minority high school students to career possibilities in foreign affairs and international business in an effort to close the race and gender divide in corporate, governmental and foreign service jobs, such as diplomats, foreign policy analysts, international bankers and international attorneys (linksinc.org).

Derkyi spearheaded a Capstone project in Policy Pathways’ 2022 Summer Academy for Policy Leadership and Public Service Online. The project, entitled “Ghana’s Energy Policy and The Growing Interdependence of China and Africa Trade,” culminated in a virtual Capstone Showcase at the end of the Academy on Saturday, July 9, 2022. Derkyi also contributed to the Summer Academy’s Opening Day activities as guest speaker.

On June 26, Dr. Ralph Hall, director of the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, moderated the opening day’s International Affairs Forum on China-Africa Trade and Energy Policy. Hall spoke about the transdisciplinary perspectives of sustainable development, exploring the many dimensions and challenges of sustainable energy options and how national, multinational and international political and legal mechanisms can be used to further a transition towards sustainable development. Hall and Derkyi were joined in the discussion by Dr. Maia Linask, assistant professor of economics at the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond, VA; and Dr. Sombo Muzata, assistant professor, Department of Political Science, James Madison University.

Says Policy Pathways President and CEO, Dr. D. Pulane Lucas, “Our partnerships with Dr. Derkyi, the Commonwealth (VA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, and our guest speakers and faculty reflect the importance of institutions working together and bringing a unique set of resources, skills and talent to educate youth. We all recognize the need to serve as a bridge to bring global issues to young people who otherwise may not have been exposed to this content at this time in their lives. Our goal is to introduce the topics of international affairs to young scholars at an earlier age. We want them exposed to international relations, trade and international finance, global development, climate change and international business. This is very exciting for Policy Pathways.”

Students’ Capstone projects can be found on policypathways.org, and recordings of the International Affairs Forum and Closing Ceremony (with presentations) are available on our YouTube page.

Author: Policy Pathways is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. Gretchen Kent is communications coordinator for Policy Pathways. She can be reached at [email protected].

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