The Global Leaders Local Service Program and International Leadership Program aim to educate and empower students outside of the four walls of the traditional classroom. If the goal of the training and experience GL participants receive is the development of locally and globally active citizens – ones who not only fight for change but help lead it – it is necessary that they learn their skills through real-world applications.
Due of our dedication to eliminating financial barriers to participation, GL’s participants come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Regardless of ability to pay, all student participants commit to learning the skills and tools necessary to innovatively react to personal and community challenges in becoming effective leaders. Through multiple local community service partnerships, in both the Colorado and California GL communities; leadership and cultural competency training; and student-led service initiatives, GL students recognize that through their vision and action they can lead others in creating just and sustainable change.
GL COCA has worked hard to build unique and cohesive programs in its communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, and along the Front Range in Colorado. The Local and International programs mirror each other (with all International students required to participate in local service) and students from both programs are invited to collaborate. This encourages students recognize that despite the differing social and economic realities in the developed or developing world, they have the power to foster solutions to achieve social justice, environmental stewardship, and increased access to quality education.
GL was originally inspired by YES, the youth-organized Global Youth Environmental Summits, extending that focus from environmental justice to also include social justice and peace. The original inspiration of youth that could – and would – take the reins in enacting change persisted, and in 1997, current Executive Director Joe Fontana and his team took students on the first Global Leaders international service trip to Guatemala.
Joe, along with his brother, Chris, and friend Jason Foster yearned to take students out of the classroom, recognizing the power that international service, cultural immersion, and a continual challenge to students’ comfort zones had in helping develop more globally aware, confident and dedicated student leaders. After that initial trip, Joe and other members of the GL staff worked to better develop the service and leadership programs at home and abroad.
Through the years, GL COCA has worked to find ways to better engage its students. Through the development of the Student Action Grant program and student-led Executive Boards in both the Colorado and California programs, participants have become the captains of their own leadership journey. These increased opportunities for leadership have opened doors to increased community partnerships and more engaged students.
In 2012, the independent Local Program was introduced as a way to open up student involvement in leadership development to those who were unable or uninterested in traveling abroad. The Local program is a free service to any interested and dedicated high school student.