While election day votes were being tallied I was in the middle of a trip to Israel and Palestine to meet with our students from the 2016 summer leadership program for their first follow-up seminar. During our time together we had several conversations about what it was like to return home after completing the intense and challenging Artsbridge program, and how to apply the knowledge and skills they acquired during the summer to their lives back home. The responses I received from the students were heart-warming. They spoke about Artsbridge as a transformative experience, about how it changed the way they now think, and how they would like to impact their communities for the better.
"Learning to listen to and accept people for who they are even when I might not agree with their worldview", was the response from a young Palestinian student, when asked what she considers the most important idea she took from the program. Many Israeli participants echoed similar thoughts. "I came to understand more things about why people have different views, and how culture affects our thoughts. I now understand that, no matter where we come from, we are all connected. I am more open-minded," another told me.
During the seminar the students explored practical ways to improve collaboration, and worked together to develop projects that would benefit their communities. We also held sessions with parents of the participants. Several parents attended and shared their stories of the notable positive impact the Artsbridge program had on their children, and how transformative our process was for them. At the end of the meeting, parents said "Thank You for Artsbridge and the work that we do". We look forward to the next seminar this winter!