American Councils for International Education continues to support recently arrived Afghan youth in the United States through the Leadership Advancement Program (LEAP). Commencing on June 20, 49 Afghan teens arrived at the University of Maryland to partake in an immersive and rigorous three-week English language and leadership training camp.
The LEAP participants engaged in intensive English courses designed to foster the development of reading, public speaking, and academic writing proficiencies. This comprehensive curriculum included daily leadership sessions, a five-day media literacy workshop during the program's second week, and various extracurricular activities such as sports, art, and swimming.
LEAP camp also offered participants opportunities to explore Washington, DC. Their first trip was to the Washington Zoo and lunch at an Afghan restaurant. On July 4, LEAP campers toured the monuments, the White House, and U.S. Capitol. On the 4th of July, American staff shared information on the holiday, including its history and the unique ways people celebrate. They also conducted festive 4th of July themed activities for participants.
On Eid al-Adha, LEAP campers and staff celebrated the Muslim holiday with special festivities, dances, and singing. In the evening, LEAP campers held an ice cream social. Dressed in traditional clothes, participants welcomed American Councils DC staff, families, and LEAP alumni for a night of dancing and sharing Eid traditions.
In the program's culminating week, participants immersed themselves in classes, final projects, and leadership activities. Participants focused on completing reading materials, working on final speeches, and participating in dynamic leadership exercises. LEAPers collaborated to produce posters centered on the "Wishes for Afghanistan" project and engaging in a dream-building project, allowing participants to consolidate their lessons on effective leadership, communication, collaboration, and utilizing their leadership skills.
The camp was marked by a closing ceremony that attracted a distinguished audience, which included representatives from the Department of State and American Councils. Molly Stephenson, Director of the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and Ahmad Jamshid Elham, Program Officer for the U.S. Mission to Afghanistan, attended in person. LEAP parents joined via Zoom to celebrate their children's accomplishments.
Mario Crifo, Public Affairs Counselor for the U.S. Mission to Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar, congratulated the LEAPers for their hard work, emphasizing that their acquired skills will pave the way for brighter opportunities and success in their journeys. “Your skills, what you practiced here at LEAP, your English or leadership, these things will open doors for you. They are necessary for success.”
American Councils is proud to administer LEAP USA and is grateful for the work of the teachers, staff, and volunteers that provided life-changing opportunities for young Afghans in the United States. Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the LEAP program provides Afghan students an unmatched chance to improve their English language skills, learn about the culture in the U.S., and form bonds with each other and the Afghan populations where they live.