The following article is a guest post written by Thea Louise Dai, an alumna of the Spring 2022 China Scholars Program. In April 2022, Thea met Wendy Wen, an alumna of the Spring 2022 Stanford e-China Program. Currently, Thea Louise is a junior at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, California, and Wendy Wen is a junior at Beijing National Day School in Beijing, China.
In April 2022, I met Wendy Wen through a collaboration between the China Scholars Program (CSP) and Stanford e-China. Five months later, we are working together to prepare the first synchronous Zoom discussion at Project 17—a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization we founded dedicated to initiating global dialogue through synchronous discussions about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.
The CSP and Stanford e-China collaboration was no doubt my most stimulating academic experience to date. The two programs held four joint discussions on various climate issues over the course of several weeks. With the rare opportunity to bridge geographical and cultural divides, I finally had a chance to apply everything I had learned about China’s history, policies, and current events throughout the program in conversation with actual Chinese students, from whom I learned new perspectives. Although we only had to participate in one of the synchronous discussions, I found myself looking forward to each meeting and rearranging my schedule to attend all four.
Wendy recalls that she had a similarly eye-opening experience during the meetings. She noted, “I have always believed that the world’s largest challenges can be solved through global collaboration. After every discussion with the CSP, I left feeling inspired to know that such collaboration is possible, even for high school students.”
After meeting each other through a breakout room conversation, we immediately connected on the need for a global discussion platform targeted towards youth perspectives. Essentially, we hoped to capture the value of our experience with SPICE, and we wanted to make it even more accessible and on a larger scale. We also wanted to clear a pathway for participants to take the next steps to create tangible change on the SDGs after our discussions.
As a result, we conceptualized Project 17 in part to partner with the chapter system of the United Nation Association of the USA (UNA-USA) so that high school and college students have the unique opportunity to connect with UNA-USA officials and members across the United States. Our vision is for all participants to be able to share their perspectives on the SDGs to inform the UNA-USA chapter system. We’re also working with Stanford e-China Instructor Carey Moncaster and CSP Instructor Tanya Lee of SPICE to publish the SDG-related research and reflections of participants on larger platforms.
Project 17 hosts four annual synchronous Zoom discussions, each focused on a particular group of SDGs: Planet, People, Prosperity, and Peace & Partnership. Our first discussion about the planet will take place in November 2022 and run for two hours. Interested students can complete the registration form on the Project 17 website to apply for an opportunity to hear from SDG advocates, learn from NGO leaders, and participate in breakout room discussions with youth leaders around the world. High school and college students based in any country are eligible to participate.
In the span of four months, Project 17’s outreach efforts have reached 51 cities, 47 schools, and five different countries. Participants will build connections with students from different backgrounds and develop a global mindset by engaging with new perspectives. In addition, participants can contribute to asynchronous discussion boards and the Project 17 blog, receive bimonthly newsletters about the SDGs, and receive certified service hours eligible for the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
By incorporating these opportunities into our organization, we hope to create an experience similar to the invaluable experiences that Wendy and I had through the CSP and Stanford e-China. Inspired by SPICE’s impact, we are incredibly excited to start an initiative similarly promoting international and cross-cultural collaboration. Please note that Project 17 is not a Stanford SPICE program.