Jenny Buccos, chosen from a from a pool of more than 1,500 candidates nominated through the White House web site, was selected as a Champion of Change for the positive impact she is making in her community.
It is an honor to be recognized as a White House Champion of Change for my work with ProjectExplorer.org promoting cross-cultural understanding. Over the last decade, I have been an advocate for global citizenship. I believe that global awareness is a critical 21st century skill, yet this topic is nearly absent from the national dialogue on education.
My global education began in 2000, while travelling in Asia on assignment for an investment bank. I began to notice that most people have a wide variety of preconceived notions about other countries and cultures, particularly here in America where our culture, news, and discussions can be so inwardly focused. Experiencing a new country and culture first-hand and having my own beliefs challenged was a real awakening for me, and I wanted share that experience with as many people as possible. This experience and the months after 9/11 became the catalysts for founding ProjectExplorer.org. Beginning in the winter of 2001, I spent several months observing the people around me become increasingly afraid of the world outside of America. As I listened to these conversations, I began to think about how developing a global awareness from a young age could change students’ interest in education by making what they learn in school more relevant, and could someday improve international relations by raising a generation of truly global citizens.
I began ProjectExplorer.org in 2003 to provide “virtual passports,” especially to those for whom travel is simply not possible. Many of ProjectExplorer.org’s free lessons ask students to compare and contrast past historical events with current global issues, and encourage classroom dialogues that explore ways to resolve conflict, environmental and racial issues. A crucial part of learning is adapting a fact to your own viewpoint, which requires questioning leading to understanding. These skills aren’t learned by rote; they’re absorbed by adapting new information to one’s existing worldview.
I hope that this honor, and the attention it brings to ProjectExplorer.org, encourages more teachers to incorporate global themes in their everyday lessons. In a recent nationwide survey ProjectExplorer.org commissioned, we found an increasing importance within diverse industries for employees to have an understanding of global issues, yet just 30% of educators surveyed regularly incorporate global themes in their lessons. Teaching Global Citizenship is becoming more and more critical, and doesn’t need to come at the expense of other subjects; instead it can be integrated across all subjects to help students learn and retain through story-telling and cross-curricular links.
I sincerely thank the Obama Administration for this recognition and the entire ProjectExplorer.org team for their years of dedication and support. I will live up to this honor by continuing my work to help create a more globally-aware citizenry.
Jenny Buccos is the Director, Producer, and Series Creator of ProjectExplorer.org