Our History

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It all started when…

GL was originally inspired by YES, the youth-organized Global Youth Environmental Summits, extending that focus from environmental justice to also include social justice and peace. The original inspiration of youth that could – and would – take the reins in enacting change persisted, and in 1997, current Executive Director Joe Fontana and his team took students on the first Global Leaders international service trip to Guatemala.

Joe, along with his brother, Chris, and friend Jason Foster yearned to take students out of the classroom, recognizing the power that international service, cultural immersion, and a continual challenge to students’ comfort zones had in helping develop more globally aware, confident and dedicated student leaders. After that initial trip, Joe and other members of the GL staff worked to better develop the service and leadership programs at home and abroad.

Through the years, Global Leadershas worked to find ways to better engage its students. Through the development of the Student Action Grant program and student-led Executive Boards, participants have become the captains of their own leadership journey. These increased opportunities for leadership have opened doors to increased community partnerships and more engaged students.

In 2012, the independent Local Program was introduced as a way to open up student involvement in leadership development to those who were unable or uninterested in traveling abroad. The Global Leaders Local program is a program open to any interested and dedicated high school student.