At a time when other college students are catching up on much needed sleep or realizing they have procrastinated on that mid-term paper long enough, four exemplary student leaders met to share their opinions on student government. These student body presidents participated in a panel to show nine delegates from the People’s Republic of China how students can get involved in the American democratic system.
The delegates from China were in Colorado as a result of their participation in a Washington, D.C.-based program called the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL). The student body presidents, meeting at the University of Denver, marked the start of the visitors’ five-day experience with a conversation about student involvement in the political process. Topics included the importance of having a voice at an early age, the challenges and value of collaboration between students and administrators, and how each president seeks out and handles criticism from the student body.
During the panel, a stimulating conversation developed between the student leaders and the delegates following a debate between the panelists about the merits of public versus private colleges and universities. Student leaders were quite surprised to learn that China’s public school system is considered more elite than the private school system (which is considered second-rate).
Following the panel, the student leaders joined the delegation for lunch, a highlight for both the students and delegates. This opportunity allowed for continued discussion between individual members of the delegation and the student body presidents. Not only were the delegates able to understand an important aspect of American colleges and universities, but the students were also able to connect with, and gain insight from, their respected peers from halfway across the world.
Panelists found the experience to be both a unique and practical way to build public speaking skills and participate in cross-cultural exchange without leaving the state.
“I got a lot out of the panel and enjoyed responding to their questions regarding governments on our campus,” said Matt VanDriel, student body president at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “It was also a good learning experience to be able to speak with panelists over lunch and talk more candidly. I was honored to be able to participate in the panel.”
Founded in 1966, ACYPL is a 501(c)(3) organization that conducts bipartisan international exchanges that enable emerging leaders (aged 25 to 40) to experience firsthand the political and cultural dynamics of other countries. Since 1993, El Pomar Foundation has granted over $500,000 to the American Council of Young Political Leaders, and hosted 30 countries in Colorado in an attempt to meet our mission. This particular delegation marked the 30-year anniversary of El Pomar sponsoring an ACYPL delegation to Denver and Colorado Springs.