American Youth Inspiring Leadership & Civic Participation

In late February and early March, the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council hosted two international visitors from Azerbaijan as part of a U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program project focusing on the topic of inspiring leadership and civic participation in youth.  Their program started with an evening of hospitality at the home of Suzanne and Randle Carpenter.

The group’s professional program began the next day at Pensacola City Hall where Councilman P.C. Wu welcomed the visitors and gave an overview of the area before answering their questions about city government.  They then met with Phyllis Curl, director of the YouthWorks Program at the Children’s Home Society, who spoke about how the organization works with young people to help set educational and employment goals.  Their final appointment of the day was with Gulf Breeze City Manager Edwin “Buzz” Eddy and focused on the city’s Youth in Government Symposium which introduces local government to Gulf Breeze High School juniors and seniors and gives them a chance to get behind the scenes.

The next day began at the University of West Florida (UWF) where Professor Jacob Shively welcomed the visitors to one of his government classes.  The group observed the class and then spoke with students about international current events and the students’ involvement in volunteerism and civic organizations.

The group next interacted with UWF Student Government Association (SGA) representatives.  SGA Vice President Jake Hebert, Director of Government Affairs Robert Vinson, Senator Saleem Krichi, SGA President Chief of Staff Kishane Patel, and faculty SGA Coordinator Jenny Hamilton spoke with the Azeri delegates about the role of the SGA in giving students a voice and promoting opportunities for leadership for young people.

That afternoon, the two met with Pensacola Young Professionals (PYP) Board Member Jonathan Thompson and member Haley Richards for an overview of PYP and how it gives young professionals a platform to assume leadership roles and become more actively involved in their community.

The visitors’ final day in Pensacola began with an interactive community coffee discussion which included Pensacola City Councilman Charles Bare, Julie Connerly, Leigh DeSantis, and Dr. Bruce Swain.  A virtual meeting with Keyontay Humphries, a local organizer with the American Civil Liberties Union and a youth activist with the Escambia Youth Justice Coalition, rounded out their program and focused on youth justice issues and strategies for advocating on behalf of young people.