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Alumna links global peacemakers during Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative fellowship in Colombia

May 15, 2017

Peace educators worldwide are sharing ideas and curricula through a virtual platform launched in Colombia last month with the help of alumna Gaia Klotz, CFPCA ’16, a 2017 Professional Fellow of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Reverse Exchange Program.

PeaceLabs, as it is called, fosters global peacebuilding efforts and took root here last fall when YLAI 2016 Fellow Paula Porras of Colombia visited campus through Global Ties Detroit, which administers international exchanges and programs on behalf of the U.S. Department of State and Meridian International Center.

The Office for International Programs (OIP) collaborates with Global Ties on U.S. State Department exchanges as part of a regional network promoting Detroit’s culture and commerce to emerging international leaders during their stays. 

Jaclyn Assarian, associate director of OIP, says YLAI was truly a unique opportunity for the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies.

“By engaging in reciprocal exchange, participants deepen their understanding for each other's point of view,” she says. “In this case, it allows them to build on the partnership that began with conversations in Detroit and continue learning from one another." 

Follow-on grants allowing U.S. hosts to reciprocate exchanges are such a valuable component to programs like YLAI, says Assarian.

Klotz agrees.  A research assistant for the center, she says the staff immediately connected with Porras of the non-profit Somos CaPAZes since both organizations work in communities dealing with poverty, reconciliation and violence. 

It is Porras, says Klotz, who suggested the idea of applying for the YLAI reverse exchange to further the collaborative efforts that were strengthened during the Porras’s monthlong fellowship.

During a two-week visit in April, Klotz shadowed Porras and colleagues in preparation for the launch of the PeaceLabs website, visiting schools and community youth organizations to deliver her own message of peace. 

A co-major in Theatre and Peace and Conflict Studies with honors, Klotz says she used storytelling and acting techniques for audiences of elementary through high school youth in Barranquilla, Bogota, Machuelo and Bosa, chronicling her fellowship in this blog.

Klotz is part of YLAI’s first reverse exchange cohort and one of only 34 U.S. Fellows chosen to participate in this extension of the program linking emerging business and social entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean with Western Hemisphere counterparts. 

“This is an incredible, humbling opportunity and honor for myself, the center and Wayne State University as a whole,” says Klotz.

The center is a renowned pioneer in youth conflict resolution, and Fred Pearson, director, says his staff envisions the PeaceLabs project very applicable to the Detroit community. Ultimately, the website will serve as a space for a global network of students, educators and community members to be active and creative agents of peace. He is proud of Klotz’s efforts.

“Gaia extends her talents in Latin America consulting on further curricular cooperation between YLAI and our center and is extremely well suited because of her language and cultural interests,” he says.  “She is well on her way to a distinguished international career in the conflict reduction field.”

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda.