Reaching for the Stars: VIPs go to School
Local heroes reward students for good ideas about immigrant integration in schools
How do you encourage teenagers to think about improving integration in their own schools? Put down the textbook and offer a contest where the prize is a celebrity visit at your school. But with a twist – the stars themselves have a migrant background.
Eres joven, ¡triunfarás! (You are young, you will succeed!) asks students aged 10-18 from across Spain to submit their ideas on projects that can improve integration in their schools. A web-based project led by the Fundacion Bertelsmann, it includes a jury to decide the winners, then sends the celebrity ‘ambassadors’ to appear at the first prize schools.
Among the ambassadors are soccer star Bojan KrKic (whose family is originally from Serbia), pop singer Chenoa (born in Argentina) and reality star-dance teacher Sergio Alcover (whose father is from Equatorial Guinea).
A Good Idea that Traveled
Introduced to Spain in 2010, the Eres joven, ¡triunfarás! program builds on the success of its German counterpart, Alle Kids Sind VIPs (All Kids are VIPs). Alle Kids Sind VIPs was founded in 2008 by the Bertelsmann Stiftung where it was a runaway success. By year two, students had submitted over 100 entries from schools across Germany to win a chance to spend time with their heros –integration ambassadors like soccer star Mario Gomez, actress Susan Sideropoulos and TV presenter Daniel Aminati.
For both programs, the educational objective is to improve academic outcomes for new immigrants and students with a migrant background. In Spain, for example, students of foreign birth scored lower at school then their Spanish-born peers, resulting in a lower rate of higher education (including vocational training). In broader terms, however, this playful, youth-oriented project positions integration and greater cultural awareness as a route to more positive, inclusive experience for all young people in the education system, and the wider world outside school.
In Spain, the Fundacion Bertelsmann developed Eres joven, ¡triunfarás! in partnership with the Ministry of Education with a multi-pronged purpose. It aimed to raise awareness about the role of youth in the integration of migrants; identify successful school-based activities and promote their transferability; demonstrate to parents the importance of cultural diversity; inform policy-makers of the contest results; and finally, present a positive image of migrants through celebrity ambassadors and organized events.
The competition itself consists of students (on their own, in small groups or as classes) submitting school-based projects online. All entries address the theme, “Integration requires equal opportunities in education,” and must describe how the project increases awareness of the cultural diversity around them. Students, with the support of their teachers, are encouraged to be as creative as they like and use any format. Submissions can be videos or websites, musical or dance performances, research or school events. A youth advisory group helps choose the winners.
“I am proud of my foreign roots”
When it came to replicate the program, the Fundacion Bertelsmann realized that they had to tailor the project to their circumstances. First of all, the two education systems were quite different. But a more important issue was the history and relative youthfulness of the local immigrant community in the two countries. Immigration to Spain took off with an influx of non-Spanish-speaking migrants in the late 1990s, whereas in Germany, large numbers of migrants had been arriving since the 1950s. Integration issues were different but another challenge for the Spanish project was finding enough celebrity ambassadors with a migrant background more challenging.
Choosing the right ambassadors is a critical part of the project. As role models, these celebrities help boost the self-esteem of students with similar backgrounds as well offering a positive image of cultural diversity. The students behind the winning projects (and their class) are rewarded with a visit from the ambassadors, including a chance to interact and ask questions about any topic they want. And see their hero in action, whether it be on the basketball court, break dancing or behind the microphone.
Soccer star Boran KrKic tells students, “I am proud of my foreign roots,” while rapper El Chojin points out that “being different is not to be inferior.” These important lessons as well as the exciting experience itself are carefully recorded. The ambassadors, who participate free of charge, appear in videos on the Eres joven, ¡triunfarás! website and across social media channels like youTube.
The ambassadors also share their personal experiences. Singer Chenoa spoke to 80 students at a Madrid school about her own experience of moving from Argentina to Spain when she was eight years old. “My main concern was to feel accepted,” she said before performing a couple of songs to a winning class. In this case, the award winning “Project Patio” used school lunch breaks for crafts, cooking and sports as a way to make new friends and improve integration at the school.
Forty nine submission, ten finalists and three award winners later – two from Madrid, the other from the region of Murcia – and the Eres joven, ¡triunfarás! project is Spain was being rewarded with the kind of success that had made it a hit in Germany. Along with ‘Project Patio,’ the three winning projects included a ‘wiki’ called ‘The World Isidra’ on the places of origins of students at a Madrid school and an ‘Intercultural Calendar’ that celebrates the diverse traditions of all students at the school.
In its first year, the competition’s website also received more than 4,000 visits while the YouTube videos were viewed over 7,000 times. The celebrity ambassadors were popular outside school, too, garnering over 100 articles from local and regional media as well as coverage on radio and television.
What keeps this project going both in Germany and Spain are the direct messages from the ambassadors to the students. When rapper El Chojin (known for his Rap against Racism project) visited the school that won for its wiki project, he told the students “I’m here to try to support what you are doing, because I think it’s important.”
Making it Work for You:
- Save time and resources by exploring ways to transfer or replicate the success of others in your own work
- When planning activities for better outcomes, such as academic achievement, ask yourself what success (at school) means to your specific audience (students)
- Match the activity to the audience, such as contemporary heroes for contemporary minds, and a video camera for telling their stories.
- Think outside the box!. Choose celebrities who appeal to young people…and local media.
For this Good Idea contact:
Irene Pardo de Diego, Fundación Bertelsmann
Pg. Picasso, 16
+34 93 268 72 37