From Barbès to Harvard

Diplomats of Diversity

Founder of the Club Barbès, a school tutoring’s association based in Paris, Philippe Debrenne presents “Diplomats of Diversity”, project cofounded by Compter sur demain.

 

What is the project?

It is an exchange program between young people from La Goutte d’Or and from American universities. A jury selects members of the Club Barbès. They must work on their English and prepare materials to present their neighborhood and their culture to American universities that host them for 10 days. There, they participate and intervene in French and sociology classes. On their return, they share their stories and experiences during an evening restitution.

 

How did the project start out?

This program is the result of a partnership between our organization and the CIEE, an American institute that welcomes students in Paris. Young Americans came to provide English tutoring to our high school students. The level of English among young people with a migrant background is disastrous, even though it may be one of the keys to their professional success. In 2010, in a continuation of this collaboration, we developed the program “Diplomats of Diversity” whose first edition gave us complete satisfaction. If our diplomats learned a lot and grew up in few months, the American universities were really enthusiastic to discover another image of France.  

 

What are the values carried by this project?

For me, the main one is citizenship. Young people separated by a lot of things can meet and debate together about the vision they have of the world. We have seen the emergence of friendship and complicity, both here and there. Our ex-diplomats have gained great maturity, a beautiful tolerance, and acquired a sense of responsibility. This program exceeds our expectations, opens minds, undermines the clichés on both sides of the Atlantic. And we do not stop there. We organized, in March, a weekend in Normandy, on the site of the D-Day landings. Together, we visited the Caen memorial, German and American cemeteries. We admired the Bayeux tapestry and had lunch in a Normand farm. Our actions can associate duty of remembrance and cultural heritage, history and future. That is citizenship.