July 2022 -- Edina High School encourages students to engage in extracurricular opportunities aimed at developing "responsible, engaged and globally competent citizens.” It feeds into the district’s larger mission to prepare future-ready graduates. Few high schoolers, let alone underclassmen, have embodied that hope as well as rising junior Kawthar Benarouch.
Kawthar is among the 109 students – representing less than 5 percent of the Edina High School student body – who lettered in community service during the 2021-2022 school year. In fact, she has received the distinction two years running.
Lettering requires 120 volunteer hours, including at least half focused around one particular social issue. “As a freshman, I focused on access to food; and this year, I focused on access to healthcare,” Kawthar explained. She came to appreciate the scope and complexity of these issues – in particular, how food scarcity and healthcare inequities are truly global concerns, but are entrenched in her own backyard as well.
Kawthar credits her deepening understanding in large part to Edina Rotary Global Scholars (ERGS). Launched formally in 2019 through a partnership between the city's two Rotary chapters and the Edina Education Fund, this new learning pathway has already attracted dozens of forward-thinking students like Kawthar.
“Global Scholars is an opportunity to develop skills of community and global involvement, and to learn about travel opportunities,” she explained. In order to graduate high school as a certified Global Scholar, enrollees must meet five criteria, including extra coursework, demonstrated fluency in a foreign language, and involvement in Rotary activities.
According to Kawthar, ERGS has already more than delivered on its promise to introduce her to travel-based learning opportunities. For starters, she is looking forward to studying in South Korea next year under the auspices of ERGS’s exchange program. “I feel overall it is a great way to expand one's communication skills and cultural awareness skills,” she shared.
However, she will not have to wait that long to travel and learn abroad. Later this summer, Kawthar will journey to Indore, India, as part of AFS Global STEM Academies.
Organized by an international network of not-for-profit partners, this four-week course of study spotlights intercultural learning around sustainability practices. Kawthar is one of only two Edina Rotary Global Scholars (a group that now numbers 113 students) to receive a full scholarship to attend AFS Global STEM Academies in 2022.
“What drew me to the program was the further learning around environmental issues, plus the experience of meeting people from around the world.” She expects to be paired with a cohort of approximately 30 other 15- to 17-year-olds hailing from across AFS’s global network.
Although sightseeing will be on the itinerary, it is no vacation. The curriculum is rigorous, as well as ambitious in scope, says Kawthar.
In addition to the travel components, scholars are also expected to score high marks on a 12-week virtual learning module. Once the fieldwork actually commences, “we will be tasked with creating a prototype solution to one of the given global issues and will create a capstone project about it demonstrating our learning.”
While this will make for a jam-packed summer like none she has experienced, Kawthar feels up to the challenge.
“It truly is a unique opportunity, and I’m very grateful to be a part of it.”
Kawthar received the 2022 Mayor’s Youth Service Commendation.