Ten students in the Global Studies and World Languages Academy at Tallwood High School have been selected as Youth Ambassadors in an exchange program organized by the American Israel Friendship League (AIFL). After a week in Virginia Beach, the Youth Ambassadors from Israel and Tallwood met other Youth Ambassadors from across the country in Washington, D.C. and traveled to New York City and then back to Israel, to stay with host families and experience their culture and customs.Two Tallwood Youth Ambassadors, Katelyn Gallagher and Zoe Hollander, have been documenting their time on this trip. This is the second in a series of posts from them. Follow along and read about their journey of a lifetime.
When all of the students boarded the buses to go north to Philadelphia and then New York City, I don’t think any of us realized what we were getting into. The bus ride was long and full of naps although once we arrived in freezing Philadelphia, all of us were excited and ready to site see. All the delegations went to two Jewish monuments in the city where a tour guide explained to us how both Israel and America fought for their liberty and freedom. In the same light, we were able to see that both of our countries had to and have to fight to get to the place they’re in now. It helped all the student ambassadors to find more similar backgrounds.
After settling in New York City, it was safe to say that the 100 or so of us students had already become very close. We have all made new friends, some from other states and some from Israel. Our chaperones took us to Times Square where we gained new memories (and a little more clothes and souvenirs). More importantly, however, was the day where we learned just how there were barely any differences between all of the teenagers. After breakfast we participated in the “Cross the Line” game where when a person calls out a characteristic or something that identifies the participants, they cross the line. It started out simple with things like “cross the line if you’re a boy” and “cross the line if you’re in this grade” and soon escalated to more serious issues such as “cross the line if you have ever been bullied” and “cross the line if you have ever been teased because you’re Christian” and other religions were named as well. It made us realize that no matter where we come from we’re all teenagers and we all went through something that has changed us in ways that some may not understand. But, when crossing the line, we realized there were other people in the group that went through the same thing made us realize that someone does understand. It didn’t matter where they came from or that they were a different religion or race. All that mattered was that this person understood, and the people on the other side of the line who didn’t have to cross accepted us.
We broke boundaries that day and became closer as a family rather than ten delegations. We also visited the Museum of Tolerance. It ended up being one of the best parts of NYC in my opinion. At the Museum of Tolerance, we learned more in depth about stereotyping and prejudice. We saw examples of the past through videos and how these epidemics still thrive in today’s society. This made a lot of us realize that what we say – no matter what it is – will always have a consequence and that the power of words is stronger than the power of war. It really tied that day together and made us so much closer than we ever thought we would become. Numbers and emails have been exchanged and instead of associating with only our sister city, we associate with people from all the other delegations as well. If there’s one thing that all of us have in common, it’s without a doubt that were all exhausted but having the times of our lives.