Needham Non-Profit is 1 of Select 15 Organizations to Receive Funding for Virtual Exchange Program


Image by Paula from Pixabay.

Thanks to Plugged in Band Program for contributing this news to Westwood Minute.

On Wednesday, April 25, 2023, the Stevens Initiative announced that Needham's Plugged In Band Program is one of 15 schools, higher education institutions, and nonprofit organizations to receive funding to run virtual exchange programs that will engage young people with international peers through learning, without having to leave their hometowns.

Plugged In Band Program’s Peace Tracks is a cross-cultural, music-focused online youth exchange that provides high school students with an unforgettable opportunity to connect with peers in other countries to get to know them, learn about their cultures, and collaborate over the course of a semester on an original song. Peace Tracks is implemented by the Plugged In Band Program and is supported by the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative (JCSVEI), a U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program that the Aspen Institute administers.

Virtual exchange connects young people from diverse places using everyday technology for collaborative learning and interaction. Through virtual exchange programs, young people have access to potentially life-changing opportunities that can bring new friends into their lives and expand their worldviews.

“At a time when education remains in flux in a post-pandemic world, complex global issues are front of mind, and young people excitedly return to in-person gatherings, virtual exchange continues to be an important learning tool. By fostering unique online spaces for young people to come together over shared challenges and triumphs, virtual exchange moves us toward a more connected and inclusive world. These new grantees play a critical role in making this possible, and participants of this program will undoubtedly approach the future with the belief they can impact their communities and the world around them,” said Christine Shiau, Executive Director of the Stevens Initiative.

Plugged In Band Program’s Peace Tracks is a virtual exchange program for high school students from the United States, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories. Participants are grouped into binational bands with each band composing, performing, recording, and producing an original song and music video about issues that their generation or culture is facing and the positive change they want to create in the world. Participants develop skills in communication, cross-cultural collaboration, songwriting, video editing, and creating, recording, and mixing music. Each Peace Tracks session culminates in a live-streamed concert featuring the bands’ songs and music videos.

“Peace Tracks affords high-school students the incredible opportunity to become more culturally competent citizens and adept digital storytellers through song. By participating in a cross-cultural, virtual exchange of music and friendship, young adults navigate new technology and relationships with an eye toward ensuring peace across continents,” said Sandra Rizkallah, Executive Director of Plugged In Band Program.

The 2023 grantees will reach 20,000 young people across the United States and MENA region. Other grants include: Arizona State University’s Future Educators for Inclusion, Missouri State University’s Global Teacher Education Exchange, Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Smithsonian Youth STEM Exchange, Soliya’s Connect Program that brings together college-aged youth in the United States and in the Middle East and North Africa for online, face-to-face dialogues in the presence of facilitators trained in dialogue and conflict resolution.

Plugged In Band Program is a non-profit music program committed to creating an inclusive, loving, and diverse community empowered to change the world. The organization educates musicians in a non-competitive environment and provides band and individual performance opportunities in support of community and charitable causes.

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