From Barbès to Harvard
Diplomats of Diversity
Founder of the Club Barbès, school tutoring’s association based in Paris, Philippe Debrenne presents “Diplomats of Diversity”, project cofounded by Compter sur demain.
What the project is ?
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 who host them during 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 which welcomes students in Paris. Young American came to provide English tutoring to our high school students. The English level among young from immigrant background is disastrous, while perhaps it is 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 an entire satisfaction. If our diplomats learnt a lot and grew up in few months, the American universities were really enthusiast 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, think 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 a 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 week-end 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.