Feeling at Home in the World with Poly’s Global Programs
A philanthropic push for increased international understanding offers Poly students access to learning opportunities across the globe.
This past March, a group of 12 Poly students and three chaperones journeyed 30 hours to Almaty, Kazakhstan. This momentous trip was the first travel program Poly has organized to Central Asia and coincided with the joyous celebration of Nayruz, or Persian New Year, the country’s most important holiday. The group witnessed city life in Almaty, day trips to surrounding villages, and important conversations with diplomats and educational leaders, not to mention Kazakh traditions, such as hunting with eagles and drinking kumis, or fermented donkey milk. For many Poly students, the Global Initiatives Program (GIP) and other global opportunities offer a window to the world that creates lasting impressions on students and the trajectory of their learning. Consider, for example, Nick G. ’24, whose interactions on the trip shaped his future career goals.
“Going in, I wanted to study something about political science, current events, or maybe go into law. But after this trip, I had a newfound interest in international relations and diplomacy,” said Nick. “It really transformed when I actually met with Uyghur people, a culture I learned about just weeks before from another GIP event. To learn their story in a country where I have heritage definitely struck me, and hearing from these people in person was really, really powerful and compelled me to look at different career paths and different educational journeys.”
Nick's journey and the journeys of 56 other Poly GIP students in 2023 were made possible, in part, thanks to generous donors who understand the importance of global education at Poly and who provide important seed funding for the school to investigate future travel opportunities for faculty and students. The GIP seeks to develop and instill within K–12 students the tools and opportunities necessary so they may become considerate, contributing, and connected global citizens. Students who complete the GIP’s extensive requirements graduate with the honor of being recognized as Polytechnic Global Scholars.
“This program is not possible without the generous, insightful, comprehensive support from those in our community,” said GIP Co-Leader Rick Caragher P ’17, ’20. “For those who are potentially interested in collaborating, I would encourage them to speak with us and jump on that 21st-century express train to help learn more about globalization. Our community has so many great resources and great ideas; we would love to hear more from our community.”
The Kazakhstan trip was initiated by new Upper School Mathematics teacher Amber Boquin, a member of the Poly community who previously lived and worked in the country and proposed and led the trip. Global education programs are also the result of engaged donors who firmly believe in promoting cultural understanding and immersive experiences.
Sean and Christine Yu '30
Two of those donors are Sean and Christine Yu P ’30. In 2021, the Yus established a travel fund in their name to further faculty immersion and exploration in global studies. The inspiration for their gift came from promoting understanding between East Asia and the United States, as well as the fundamental impact travel has had on their lives.
“With this travel fund, we hope that Poly faculty and staff can likewise experience the culture of East Asia,” the couple said. “We believe that by immersing themselves in East Asian culture, faculty members will not only expand their own perspectives but also develop a deeper fundamental understanding of East Asian students, parents, and communities. We hope that this awareness will allow Poly teachers to reduce misunderstandings, prevent conflict, and mitigate potential friction between East Asian and Western customs.”
This summer, Upper School Mandarin Teacher Lois Chung and GIP Co-Leader Ann Diederich traveled to Taiwan with the fund to scout educational exchange opportunities and scope out future collaborations with the GIP. Ann was able to meet with Indigenous communities native to Taiwan as well as international school colleagues to promote further dialogue with Poly.
“We believe that the GIP at Poly is a tremendous opportunity for students to expand their horizons and ‘break out of the bubble’ to learn the different cultures, beliefs, customs, and upbringings of students in other parts of the world,” said Sean. “A few Poly students focused on how they would like to use their privileged educational opportunities and resources to improve the quality of education in areas where students were not as fortunate. Christine and I think that this mature perspective on giving back should be a cornerstone for Poly students to develop firsthand.”
Poly’s global education programs have big plans for the future, made possible by the generous support of donors. These include expanded K–12 programming, not only for those students mature enough to appreciate international travel programs but also for our youngest students. It also involves continuing the important work of the Global Initiatives Alliance (GIA), an organization for parents, guardians, faculty, staff, and the greater Poly community to promote global awareness. For Ann, one of the biggest priorities of the GIP is to expand access to its global opportunities, no matter a family’s financial situation.
“Our vision is to increase our accessibility to allow Poly students to make connections between their classroom work and fieldwork. And that would be to eventually have every student enjoy a travel experience, regardless of their financial means.”
The GIP’s vision is shared by the school more broadly, as Poly aims to promote transformative teaching experiences that excite global possibilities and shake up preconceived notions about the world around us. Achieving this objective is only possible with the support of donors like the Yu family and so many others in the Poly community who have been touched by global experiences.