A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Raising Global Citizens: The Teenage Years

Posted by Monica Ruiz-Melendez on December 4, 2015


This is the final article in a three-part series about raising global citizens, started last spring for this blog.

Now that you have fostered curiosity and exploration during the early childhood years and focused on supporting your tween in figuring out self-identity in relation to others, you’re ready to help your teenager become a world citizen. By the time they reach adolescence, young people have a pretty solid understanding of the things that set them apart as individuals and how they fit into the larger community beyond your family unit. They also have clear ideas of their passions and inclinations, while continuing to discover the wonders and challenges of the world around them.These are the years in which travel outside the family unit becomes most attractive - and sometimes indispensable -  to the formation of personal ideologies regarding self-identity in relation to global citizenship.

So, how can you support  your child’s desire to discover and engage with new communities and cultures beyond their own? How can you ensure these experiences go beyond mere tourist interactions and offer deep and transformative opportunities for your teenager?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Help them identify global engagement opportunities locally - Samaritan’s Purse is one of my favorite agencies.Their yearly Operation Christmas Child collection has become a favorite of Westtown students who love to bring the joy of Christmas to children worldwide. It’s one of those local opportunities with positive global reach. Other local organizations like Habitat for Humanity offer outstanding opportunities for local impact and global consciousness. Encourage your teenager to join!
  • Inquire about adult-led or sponsored trips in your local community - You don’t need a passport to go global. Check out volunteering opportunities to make a difference here in the US! Whether you are affiliated to a religious organization or not, Urban Mission offers plenty of opportunities to make a difference in Philadelphia. They work to improve HIV/AIDS awareness, homelessness and food insecurity in the city.  For those of you outside the Philadelphia region, volunteermatch.org allows you to search by zip code for volunteer opportunities throughout the U.S.

  • Support their affiliation to service organizations in your area that are globally focused - CISV and Rotary International have chapters throughout the nation. They hold monthly meetings and provide an excellent opportunity for local engagement for global reach! They also offer travel opportunities for young adults, and in some cases scholarship opportunities.

  • Help them think beyond the high school years - Global engagement begins at an early age, but when it is indeed a passion, it serves as a guidepost for future personal, academic, and professional endeavors. Encourage international internships, they will give your teenager a tangible chance to develop cross-cultural competencies in a professional setting that will give them a leg up during the college years and into future job searches. Volunteering abroad is also a phenomenal way to help students think about current passions and their reach into future choices. This type of experience will be sure to impact your teenager’s academic and professional paths.

Raising global citizens is a lifelong endeavor. It is a goal we can set out to achieve from an early age. Each developmental stage offers us opportunities to expand our kids' world view and refine their cross-cultural competencies. Take every occasion to usher your children from being an explorer to becoming a participant and a changemaker in the global village!

Other Articles in Series:

The Early Years: Five Ways to Help Your Little Explorer Become a World Citizen

Raising Global Citizens: The Tween Years


Learn More about Westtown  


Topics: Help with learning, Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Monica Ruiz-Melendez

Written by Monica Ruiz-Melendez

Dr. Mónica Ruiz-Meléndez is Chair of the World Languages Department at Westtown School. Her responsibilities include teaching upper level Spanish classes, supervision of language acquisition and cultural immersion programs, oversight of The Global Leadership Certificate Program, and curricular innovation and review. Originally from Puerto Rico, she has lived and worked at Westtown since 2005. She received her Ph.D. and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from The University of Georgia, and her greatest joy as a teacher is seeing her students discover new worlds of understanding through language acquisition. She is the mother of three bilingual and bicultural daughters.