By Harold Gwin
A group of rising leaders from 11 Asian nations toured Youngstown on Monday.
YOUNGSTOWN — A select group of East High School students got to try their hand at foreign policy when they met Monday with a panel of international guests visiting the United States.
The 18th New Generation Seminar came to Youngstown, one of three stops on a tour looking at the effects of globalization on the United States. The other stops will be visits to Cleveland and Washington, D.C.
The seminar features young leaders from 11 Asian countries and the United States. Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams is a selected participant of the seminar.
The first stop was at East High School, where the 17 seminar members sat down for an hour with East students Antonio Ford, Marlyn Estrada, Alexander Pettway, Kyonia Johnson and Aiesha Ethridge, taking turns asking them about their school, peer pressure and other topics, including their interest in politics.
In turn, the city school students got a chance to ask their visitors about education in other countries.
The seminar is sponsored by the East-West Center, which each year invites rising young leaders from the United States and Asian Pacific nations to participate in a two-week educational and study tour program.
This year’s panel includes governmental officials, journalists, business people and others from Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Williams, who said he was invited to participate about a month ago, said Youngstown was chosen as one of the stops because it is a Rust-Belt community working to recover from the loss of its major industry.
The city’s 2010 revitalization plan drew the interest of seminar participants, and they asked the East students what they would do to help improve the city if they were mayor in 2020.
Pettway and Ford both suggested that getting an amusement park in the city along the lines of Cedar Point would be a major attraction that would provide new revenues for the city.
Ford said he would also like to see an emphasis on small business development.
Ethridge said she would favor developing programs for children aged 3 to 10 to get them motivated, interested in school and interested in helping to make Youngstown a better place when they grow up.
In response to a question about high dropout rates, Johnson said she believes that education isn’t enforced in the homes of those who drop out of school.
Ford said there’s a trend right now that, “You have to be a bad student to be cool,” explaining that some students feel it’s not popular to excel academically.
School officials said only 5 percent to 10 percent of the student body cause discipline problems, and the East students offered suggestions on how to help that minority.
Creating social groups and providing mentoring assistance would be good, Estrada said.
Separate classes but good students serving as mentors in those classes would be beneficial, Ethridge suggested.
Johnson also suggested creating social groups where young people could sit and talk about their problems and seek solutions.
Dress code — something that has drawn attention in the Youngstown schools in recent weeks — was also a topic, and the East students learned that the dress code is much more strict in many Asian nations than it is here.
Asked about their interest in politics, some of the East students said they might run for office.
“It’s very competitive, Ethridge said, adding, “I think I could go into politics someday.”
Politics is vital in life, Ford said, explaining that he might want to run for office because it would put him in a position to make a difference.
Johnson said she follows politics and is involved in getting high school students to register to vote. It’s important for kids to be involved, she said.