Digital Future? Yes, you can help them build one

Discover how to help teenagers in Armenia gain valuable employment skills–and have fun at the same time. Here’s how.

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https://www.peacecorps.gov/donate/projects/online-english-language-contest-for-armenian-school-students-pp-19-305-001/

These students,aged 12-17 , are sassy and smart. They are united in a desire to use their spirit, brains and charm to propel themselves into the best universities and jobs–building blocks for the future. Our kids are cultivating confidence in spoken English; the ability to ask good questions and provide intelligent, original, innovative answers; and a certain public poise, because they know these attributes will help them stand out from the crowd.

Our students- 1300 of them in 2019–are not privileged kids. Far from it. Hundreds of them live in border villages overlooked by army outposts, in houses that bear scars from shooting and bombing. The majority live on food that is grown in their own backyard. They are looking forward to New Year because the holiday means there will be pork butt and chicken on most tables–a welcome change from the usual cabbage and potatoes. These are teenagers who share a bedroom with their parents, or their siblings and their gran. They look after younger brothers and sisters. They help their dads chop wood. They bring home the cows.

Because Armenia has almost 100% internet connectivity, most of these kids — and their classmates we don’t yet know–can spend some time online, either at home, on a phone, or through a computer at school.

For this reason — and to help our bright sparks develop digital skills beyond selfies– our organization is working with X-Tech and Peace Corps to launch a poetry contest web app. We hope you’d like to get involved. Here’s how.

You can work with us to achieve three goals:

  • make the contest truly accessible to many thousands of English language learners in forms 7-12 in public schools across Armenia. 1300 is the most we can cope with in cars, on buses,and in school halls. 1300 is the most that judges in 13 regional centers can listen to in person. 1300 is the maximum number of mouths we can feed. But if we can hold a preliminary round of the contest online, we’ll then the sky’s the limit. Everyone can take part–and the very best will make it to the stage. Think Armenian Idol. Think Armenia’s Got Talent. Think X-Factor (although Armenian has no X–39 letters and still no x). And you can be an online judge– wherever in the world you are.
  • Help our savvy communicators become truly smart with their phones, developing the media and digital skills that are essential for so many jobs today. Oh sure, every teen can point their camera phone at their friend — but how many think to turn it sideways? Who notices the overflowing bin in the background, the traffic noise, or the light pouring in from the window? Who thinks about framing and zooming and angles?! Our in-app hints and tips can build new awareness and new skills. Here most teen videos are shared by Facebook. But many teens don’t know how to share the video with a non- Facebook user. Or how to upload it to YouTube. Oldies may scoff, but these skills are useful if you want to work in marketing or communications–in Armenia or anywhere else in the world.
  • Asking students to register online and upload a video performance allows us to share important information about privacy and personal security. Our judges can’t know a student’s name and where he or she comes from because that wouldn’t be fair. But there are other reasons not to show or tell that information on a video, ever. Working with us is a good way for our students to learn best practices.

Our kids are not sick. They are not sad puppies, or victims of any sort. That may mean they aren’t top of your list for giving, and we respect that choice. But if you’d like to know more about how you can be part of the growth and development of Armenia’s brightest and best, please click here. Thank you for caring.

This article was prepared for the social media page and website of the organization I work with in Armenia.  There, of course, it is in Armenian 😉

About Liz Barron

US Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia. Permanent address in Washington DC. Deep roots in Northern Ireland and persistent Belfast accent. Blogger,cook, mother, grandma, Scrabble-player and enthusiastic world traveler.
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