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Fort Bend ISD Academy students pilot program for the United States Department of State (2/16/2017)

FORT BEND ISD (February 16, 2017) - Nearly 3,000 miles separate students in Fort Bend from the United State Embassy in Panama City. And yet, the students and the embassy staff have been working closely together over the last few months as part of the Adopt a U.S. Embassy Program (AUEP). The students, from the Global Studies Academy at Clements, are part of the pilot program with the U.S. Department of State that matches high school students with embassies in order to kindle and expand interest in diplomacy and foreign service.

Students in the academy must apply to be a part of the embassy program and the group is kept to a small number of juniors and seniors for now. They students are: Berra Akcan, Jason Ancheta, Sierra Jackson, Megan Muppala, Bianca Navia, Archit Oswal, Ali Shirazi, Madison Taylor and Ross Trivisonno. From the experience gained in the program, the students feel better prepared for careers in diplomacy and international relations.

“I think the most important aspect to focus on as a student of international relations is the study of current events. There are so many topics to keep up with in our contemporary world and things move so rapidly that one needs to learn how to conduct themselves based on such developments,” said Akcan.

Anne Beckman, the Global Studies Academy Coordinator, said that idea was formed after John C. Roberts, the now-retired Diplomat in Residence for the Texas area, began thinking of how to get more high school students interested in diplomatic work. Roberts, who was based at the University of Houston, had partnered with the academy before as a mentor and guest speaker. Beckman and a student drafted a proposal for the program and the State Department endorsed it, creating the pilot program.

“Mr. Roberts approached me in mid-January 2016 and I sent the draft of the proposal on February 16,” said Beckman. “The final draft was approved sometime in mid-April.”

As part of the program, students attend monthly digital meetings with Ambassador John Feeley and embassy staff in Panama, which began in May 2016, and coordinate outreach events for each term. The team is also working on plans for how to expand the AUEP to other high schools. For last semester, students in the academy at Clements and Travis participated in a simulated game that introduced them to the work of diplomats in the State Department. This semester’s event was a Skype meeting with Ambassador Feeley, open to students at Austin, Clements, Elkins and Travis high schools.

Since most of the students are nearing the end of their time in high school, many are already thinking of what they would like to do in college and beyond. Bianca Navia already spent a year in Germany, and as a senior, is working on a comparative look at American and German education for her capstone project. Bianca’s participation in the program has been a window into a possible career opportunity.

“I now have a better idea of what goes on within a U.S. Embassy and some of the political, economic, environmental, and public relations topics that are addressed on a daily basis,” she said.

Jason Ancheta, a junior at Clements, has also enjoyed the firsthand experience of working with the State Department. In addition to learning about the many opportunities available to students interested in global studies, he’s also learned that whatever his professional aspirations are, there is a place for him in the government.

“We have spoken to lawyers and engineers who told us that they were able to join the State Department even though their previous occupations had nothing to do with foreign relations,” he said. “My participation in this program has helped me to discover that I need to get my foot in the door with careers I wish to pursue.”
Click here to read the article on the program in State Magazine.

The Diplomats in Residence (DIRs) program posts career Foreign Service Officers in 16 domestic locations throughout the United States. These officers are available to assist students and the public in learning more about internships, fellowships and careers with the State Department. Floyd Cable, stationed at the University of Texas at Austin, is the current Diplomat in Residence for the Texas area. To learn more about the program, visit the website.

Photograph: Students in the Adopt a U.S. Embassy Program with Global Studies Academy Coordinator Anne Beckman, left.