Education

About 11 percent of Kentucky students in grades K-12 were enrolled in a foreign language course in 2014-15. That’s according to the American Council of International Education. That statistic is one of the reasons a local organization wants to get more high school students in the commonwealth to become more globally competent.

The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana is now taking applications for its new Global Citizenship Certificate Program. Beth Malcom, president and CEO of the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association, served on the education committee that designed the program. 

“Global competency is being aware of the world around you and that there are other lenses, perspectives, experiences, traditions that may differ from your own,” Malcom said.

She said the program would complement almost any field of study, including science and high-tech fields that are heralded by some as more lucrative and essential for the future. 

Malcom said along with cognitive benefits, having a global mind and being multilingual can be beneficial for college admissions.

“There is a sense that Kentucky is not an international place but if you look at the manufacturing that’s here we have a huge, large number of international companies with plants and factories here,” said Xiao Yin Zhao, executive director of the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. That includes companies like Toyota, she said.

Zhao said the council — a nonprofit based in the Portland neighborhood — is investing approximately $50,000 into the pilot program. 

The Global Citizenship Certificate Program is a free, two-year program for high schoolers in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Students complete requirements such as language learning and attend events such as the Model U.N., culminating in a capstone project. The program will accept about 100 students.

Progress is tracked by an online application. Zhao said it is not lost on officials that some students may not be able to complete the program because of inadequate internet access or because some may not have globally-minded events nearby that meet requirements.  

“When we did this we wanted to do something that is easily done by students and that’s why we went through a mobile application,” said Zhao. “We are completely aware of that digital divide.”

She said at least in this first year, more remote areas may not be ready for a program but coordinators can gauge interest from the number of applications from those areas and try to help those students in the future. 

The application to the Global Citizenship Certificate Program asks for basic information about prospective students, questions about their interest and what they think they’ll get out of the program.

Applications are being accepted until October 15.

Roxanne Scott covers the economy for WFPL News.