IREX to connect young people in the United States and Guatemala with support from the Stevens Initiative

IREX to connect young people in the United States and Guatemala with support from the Stevens Initiative


World Smarts Photo

The Stevens Initiative announced that IREX is one of a select group of virtual exchange providers to receive funding to run programs that connect youth in the U.S. and Latin America. IREX’s World Smarts Changemakers, launching in fall 2024, will engage American and Guatemalan youth in bilingual conversations and a problem-based learning experience that promotes cultural awareness, language immersion, and community development. 

“IREX is enthusiastic to expand the World Smarts program to Guatemala and include language learning. The World Smarts program is exciting because it brings together secondary school students from the Washington, D.C. metro area with peers in Guatemala to build relationships and solve problems that matter to them and their communities. Through genuine virtual collaboration, students build technical skills such as language learning and 21st century skills such as cross-cultural communication, empathy, and problem solving,” said Sarah Bever, Senior Technical Advisor at IREX

IREX’s World Smarts Changemakers is funded by the Stevens Initiative, which is housed at the Aspen Institute and is supported by the Bezos Family Foundation.

“The Stevens Initiative envisions a day where every young person can say that virtual exchange empowered them to learn and connect with peers from around the world. This can only be possible with the support of the dedicated virtual exchange providers, strategic partners, and education and exchange leaders who have joined our global movement. The Stevens Initiative’s collaboration with IREX represents a pivotal moment for the future of virtual exchange, and we are proud to work alongside them as they work on the ground to make this vision possible in the years ahead,” said Christine Shiau, Executive Director of the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute.

Under the Stevens Initiative, IREX will implement World Smarts Changemakers beginning fall 2024 through fall 2025. World Smarts Changemakers joins middle school students in Guatemala and the United States for conversational language learning in online collaboration spaces. Students form binational teams to design solutions for real problems, facilitated by classroom teachers trained in the World Smarts Changemakers’ curriculum focused on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, design thinking, and conversations. Throughout the project-based learning experience, participants develop skills such as digital literacy, cross-cultural communication, cooperation, and critical thinking. After each cohort, participants submit projects to the Changemakers Expo, with teams recognized for excellence in collaboration, cross-cultural communication, and innovation at the culminating event.

In addition to launching World Smarts Changemakers in fall 2024, IREX has designed and managed a number of other virtual exchange programs since 2016 reaching over 5,000 youth including World Smarts STEM Challenge, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the National Science Foundation and Global Solutions STEM Challenge, funded by Sauce Labs and the Stevens Initiative.