The Youth Leadership Program from Libya, Egypt and Tunisia came to San Diego State during its three- week media literacy program, which began Aug. 24.
The group consisted of 10 high school students from each country chosen by the American embassy. This program, created by the non- governmental organization World Learning, is the first of its kind.
On Sept. 5 the group spoke to Dr. Rebecca Coates Nee’s “Media Technology in the Global Environment” class about the social revolutions fueled by social media known as the Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia in late 2010.
In many countries with oppres- sive leadership, channels of commu- nication and international media are closed or highly regulated.
Arab Spring, though independent- ly motivated, involved social media to help people mobilize, organize and communicate freely.
“We tweet things like, ‘I’m at the grocery store’ or ‘I’m going to a concert,’” senior program facilitator Peter Plass said. “But in the Arab world … people are using Twitter and using Facebook as a way to communicate under the noses of the old guard.”
Nadine Bubteina from Libya said people were disorganized in the past, but the emergence of social media gives them a way to communicate.
“After 30 years people were starv- ing, there was poverty, people had no shelters,” Reem Akef, who is from Egypt, said. “Everyone got sick of the old regime…They started on Facebook to organize protests.”
Governments tried to shut down communication, but people became more frustrated and the number of protesters increased.
“The sudden explosion of people was really unimaginable,” Noreen Aly, said. “Those demonstrations weren’t hundreds of people or thou- sands of people. We were millions.”
The students agreed there is still a lot to be accomplished, but the revolutions were a step in the right direction.
According to Aly, who is from Egypt, the potential consequences are nothing in comparison to the good that can be gained from speak- ing up and taking a stand.
“People can now speak freely, do whatever they want, say whatever they want,” Saher Barsoum, also from Egypt, said.
After speaking to Nee’s class of nearly 100 students, it was easy to forget the members of the group are no older than 17.
Program coordinator at San Diego Diplomacy Council Sarah Nugent, who helped organize the group in San Diego, was amazed by the stu- dents’ motivation and confidence.
According to Nugent, young adults such as the students from YLPLET are important to social change. Plass thinks teenagers offer a fresh perspective for adults who have built up anger toward their government for decades.
After San Diego, the group heads to Washington D.C., where the students will focus on action-planning and goal-setting through media use.