Sara Noel is a recent alumna of the Conflict Resolution Institute MA program and a former intern at Critical Mass Leadership Education (CMLE). CMLE and the Bold Leaders project runs training and development programs for communities around the world. While Sara was working with CMLE, those communities included Cypriots from the Turkishspeaking and Greek-speaking communities, Roma youth from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, as well as two groups from Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. Teenagers travel to Colorado where they spend a week in the mountains doing peacebuilding and conflict resolution education as well as leadership development. Th e focus of the program is on building relationships, and civic and personal engagement. After one week in the mountains students spend a few weeks in Denver with their host families where they continue doing work, and visit with community organizations. The program concludes with a week in Washington, D.C. where the group visits sites and more community and civic organizations. Throughout the program, students work on developing their own projects to be implemented back in their home communities.
Sara contends that the effect on the participants after these programs is remarkable. She states, "I witnessed incredible changes in the teens by the time they completed the Bold Leaders program. They left feeling more confident and empowered and ready to go back to their home communities and implement their projects. The students had amazing ideas and drive. Th e Bold Leaders program worked to help them find their voice and use it."
Sara began her internship with CMLE in the summer of 2009 as the host family coordinator for Roma youth from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. She also worked as the alumni coordinator. During her time at CMLE she participated in four Bold Leaders programs, each of which involved working with groups of teenagers from Cyprus, Central Europe and Africa. She "spent three intensive weeks with each group in Colorado, working with them every day, facilitating group discussions and activities and helping to organize program logistics." She also traveled with two of the groups to Washington, D.C. for the final week of their program. Sara contends that her experience with CMLE was "incredibly valuable". CMLE is a relatively small organization. So, because of this, she was given the opportunity to be involved in all levels and aspects of each program, giving her a "full picture of the operation of a small non-profit organization." One of the unexpected benefits of the internship was the opportunity to meet people from around the world with whom Sara still keeps in contact.
When asked about how she became connected to CMLE, she said CRI's annual "Con-Res Connect" was to thank. Every year, CRI and the Conflict Resolution Graduate Student Association puts together a networking event so that students and alumni can get a chance to mingle with and make connections with practitioners in the field of conflict resolution. Students find internships, jobs, and other projects through this event. For Sara it was a matter of being introduced to Brady Rhodes, CMLE's Program Director, by Mila Pilz, another CRI student and CMLE intern. For students considering an internship at CMLE, Sara advises that students just "jump right in, be flexible and be ready to do what needs to be done, making copies and updating Facebook but also coaching kids through rope courses, climbing mountains and organizing fundraising
events. Interning with CMLE is truly an example of getting out of it what you put in. You have to be fully involved and fully present."
There were many benefits to interning at CMLE and being involved in the Bold Leaders Program. Sara's work gave her many opportunities to put the skills and concepts she learned in her coursework in the Conflict Resolution Program to work. Her work with teenagers gave her the opportunity to use and develop her facilitation skills as well as other conflict resolution skill sets. She found the trainings, workshops and activities to be highly beneficial. In fact, she felt that she got just as much out of them as the participants, even the second and third times around. The most rewarding part of the internship was the hands-on experience that it afforded her in working with the program participants. When asked about the worst part of the internship she responded: "I was just sorry I couldn't do it all the time."
Where is Sara today?
Sara says that her internship at CMLE and the Bold Leaders project led to her current position at Amizade Global Service-Learning in Pittsburgh, PA., where she is the current Outreach Director. Amizade is a non-profit organization that works to empower individuals and communities through worldwide service and learning. Amizade runs programs in nine different countries in Europe, Africa and the Americas. Th ese programs include courses for credit as well as not-for credit programs open to students and non-students of all ages. Each of the programs is focused around volunteer and service activities. Amizade works with the organizations and communities in each location on community driven service projects.