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UM News
September 26, 2012

MISSOULA –

If you are a Montana high school teacher or student with interests in environmental issues or international affairs, you could be among 20 students and two teachers supported by the U.S. Department of State for an all-expenses-paid trip to Cambodia.

The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at The University of Montana has been awarded a $175,000 grant by the U.S. Department of State to implement the American Youth Leadership Program in Cambodia, which focuses on environmental issues and climate change.

The grant pays all expenses for two teachers with experience in environmental studies or international affairs to travel on the program. The funding also covers travel for 20 high school students ages 15 to 17 who are looking to experience another culture and learn about the environmental issues facing both Cambodia and Montana. Upon returning home, students will put their new knowledge and skills into action by spearheading a service project in their communities.

“This is a highly competitive program that was pursued by organizations across the U.S.,” said Deena Mansour, Mansfield Center associate director. “That the Department of State is providing this rare opportunity exclusively for Montana reflects the quality of our educators and the students coming out of Montana.”

In Cambodia, the group will study cultural and environmental issues in the capital city of Phnom Penh and its nearby beaches, the forests of the Cardamom Mountains, the villages of Battambang, and the floating villages and ancient temple complex at Siem Reap. They will compare and contrast the many environmental issues affecting both Montana and Cambodia in areas such as water, forestry and ecotourism.

“The program is a true people-to-people exchange,” Mansour said. “Far from being isolated on a tour bus, the Montana group will be immersed in Cambodian society and learn together with Cambodian students and educators. They’ll live in Cambodian neighborhoods, eat Cambodian foods and truly share the lives of Cambodian students and their families.”

Known to Americans for its ancient heritage as well as its involvement in the U.S. war with Vietnam, Cambodia is one of the fastest-growing tourism destinations in the world.  In addition to environmental issues, the group will learn about Cambodian culture, society, and history. A highlight of the program will be a visit to the World Heritage site of the Angkor Archaeological Park, which contains the majestic remains of the capitals of the Khmer Empire, which dated from the ninth through 15th centuries. 

Applications for teachers are due Oct. 22.  Teachers will be selected first and then will help select the students, whose applications are due Nov. 19.

 “This is an experience of a lifetime, and we are excited to be able to offer this program to Montana educators and students,” project manager Kelsey Stamm said. “We hope that teachers and students across the state will take advantage of this opportunity to apply.” 

The State Department’s American Youth Leadership Program (AYLP) is designed to advance mutual understanding between the people of the United States and of other countries, prepare youth leaders to become responsible citizens, spark an interest in learning about foreign cultures, and develop a cadre of Americans with cultural understanding who are able to advance international dialogue and compete effectively in the global economy.  The Cambodia program is one of seven AYLP programs.

The Mansfield Center promotes better understanding of Asia, U.S. relations with Asia, and ethics and public affairs in the spirit of longtime U.S. Sen. Mike Mansfield, and his wife, Maureen.

“This program complements the suite of activities offered by the Mansfield Center to communities across our state,” Mansour said. “We’re pleased that the State Department has supported us in our efforts to offer exchange opportunities to professionals, to University students and now to high school students.”

More information and applications can be found on the Mansfield Center’s website at http://www.umt.edu/mansfield or by calling Stamm at 406-243-2838.

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Contact: Kelsey Stamm, project manager, UM Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, 406-243-2838, kelsey.stamm@umontana.edu.