At a time when many school districts are struggling with cultural diversity, the Vancouver, Wash., school system has found an effective strategy to immerse  students in deeper learning experiences,  preparing them to be global leaders.

In a Saturday session at the AASA national conference, Steve Webb, superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools, was joined by his colleagues to show how elements of  global school design can lead to districtwide improvements.

Vancouver’s mission is to transform  students into international agents for change. “Our work is around developing global confidence,” said co-presenter Kate Farmer, assistant director of the International Studies Schools Network in Vancouver. “It’s about the skill set that will best prepare our students for the world they will be entering.”

The district uses the Global School Design Model to promote an innovative learning environment for students and teachers. Schools in this network typically experience an increase in student engagement, faculty morale and family satisfaction, as well as improved high school graduation rates, Webb added.

The presenters encouraged the superintendents in the audience to consider this model owing to the ongoing  success their district is experiencing.

“The model that we chose benefited our students. We value who they are and what they bring to our school,” said co-presenter Allison Darke, associate principal of Fort Vancouver High School’s Center for International Studies.

Vancouver students not only learn about diversity, they  are part of a collection of different cultures and religions that are celebrated in the classroom. The Center for International Studies assists foreign students by establishing personal connections to U.S.-born students.

“We are representing who we are today, as well as a multicultural community,” Darke said. “It’s important for our graduates to be college ready and for them to be aware of the world around them.”

The school district is trying to grow the next wave of international leaders who will make an impact on the global stage.

“We want globally competent world candidates,” Webb said. “It’s about thriving in an inner-dependent global economy.”

(By Kendall Lawson, a junior mass communication major at Xavier University in New Orleans)