OSU is home to students from all over the world, but this week a special group of young international citizens is in Stillwater. Up With People’s traveling performers are contributing to the community during their visit.
This program aims to better society by bringing together kids from all different backgrounds and placing them in unfamiliar communities to serve.
One hundred high school graduates from 19 countries are spending their week in Stillwater building houses, working in food pantries, hosting dance workshops, providing childcare and more.
They say the projects are helping them become leaders as they give back.
“I’m doing two semesters as a gap year before I go to college, and I think anyone here can find their passion,” says Lenard Jackson, an 18-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio.
As they move from city to city each week for six months, they learn to work as a team.
“Everybody is a huge contributor,” says Lawrenceville, Ind. native Frank Cole, 18. “Everybody can find anything they can do and everybody does their own part, and they really do help.”
Each week also brings a different social theme. During their Stillwater visit, participants hope to raise awareness about hunger, both locally and globally.
Forty-one of the traveling performers are American, and they say being around peers from other cultures has been an eye-opening experience.
“There’s a difference between diversity and inclusion,” Jackson says. “Up With People is something that’s diverse and inclusive because we’re learning about each other. We’re evolving as human beings.”
The group will end their visit with a performance to say thank you to the community, and give back even further. The profits from this weekend's show will go towards a scholarship fund at OSU.
The young leaders say the world tour is inspiring them to make their own changes back home.
Netherlands native, 18-year-old Lara Vanbeusekom, says, “It’s a really safe space to say what you think, and I want to bring that to my community and maybe start other nonprofits like I visited here.”
The Up With People cast will be performing twice on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Stillwater Public Schools performing arts center. To purchase tickets, click here.