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As over a week of events and celebrations come to an end, we wanted to share some UWC Day 2021 highlights and reflections with you.

This year, actions have taken place in over 40 locations in line with the theme: Reimagine Tomorrow. From tree planting to fundraisers for the UWC for Afghan Youth Appeal, it is great to see how the effects of many of these initiatives will long outlive UWC Day 2021.

...And in the spirit of continuing to ‘Reimagine Tomorrow’ long after September ends, we wanted to share this collection of reflections that a range of different UWC community members shared with us in response to this question:


When we think about ‘Reimagining’ the future of UWC - what are the most important themes and priorities that come to mind for you?

From students to alums, from staff members to all four new Heads of UWC schools - we hope you too find some space for reflection in the words that they share. 

Reimagine Tomorrow: Reflections from the Community

Sonia Rawat, Head of UWC Mostar
Photo of Sonia Rawat (Head of UWC Mostar)
"When I reimagine the future of UWC, I see the community dealing with each other and the planet with understanding and kindness; with insights and inspiration rather than just knowledge. I see the ability to carry everyone forward together, UWCs as well as the communities that UWCs are embedded in. The strength to draw upon adversity and grow from it, rather than submit to it, turning adversity to advantage. To understand and achieve success without the excess.

 The fabric of UWC schools are woven from the elements that make such a community of people possible, a place where the idea of a unified world of differences can grow, through thinking freely, questioning deeply and understanding others. This makes them ideal places to nourish the mindsets that the future of the planet needs.”

Abobakar from Afghanistan, Zakarya from Yemen, Lucía from Spain/Venezuela, and Xinyao from Hong Kong, UWC Atlantic Class of 2021 and 2022

"Kurt Hahn’s philosophy was based on the potential he saw in adolescents, the belief that young people possess the curiosity, spirit, tenacity and compassion to induce a positive change in the world. His ideals are just as relevant as ever, pioneered by the UWC institution. With the theme of “Reimagine Tomorrow”, having equal opportunity to education must be a priority. The issue of equity for accessibility, funding, and more, for all aspiring teenagers. To embody Hahn’s philosophies, how can UWC’s education cultivate and encourage projects envisioned by young people?

Another key priority is the continued fight for mutual and multicultural understanding. In this complex society filled with conflict, UWC has the responsibility to choose what they stand for or against and to give people the platform to express their views. This would be an opportunity for UWC schools to be more interconnected, using transparency and collective action to an impact."

Tobi Kellner, Teacher & Sustainability Coordinator at UWC Robert Bosch College

We have had the words “sustainable future” in our mission statement for many years, it is time for us to fill these words with meaning. When it comes to fostering international understanding and intercultural exchange, our educational concept has these aspects ‘built in’ at the very core through the deliberate diversity of our students. Today our world faces new challenges – for example the biodiversity and climate crisis – that our educational program currently only addresses as “add-ons”. If we want UWC to be as relevant today as it was when UWC Atlantic opened in 1962, we need to reinvent ourselves and create a truly hands-on experiential education concept around issues like ecosystem restoration and social activism, a place built around living the solutions we want the world to adopt!

Fortunately, UWC is well placed to make that transition. We have an exceptional network of national committees that allows us to select students who want to change the world rather than just get into prestigious universities. We have generous donors who support us not because we achieve academic excellence but because we aim to change the world. And we have tens of thousands of graduates and friends who will support us in any bold move we make. All we now need is courage to reimagine ourselves!

Brenda Rubio from Mexico, UWC Costa Rica, 2015-2017

“For me, a reimagined tomorrow involves reimagining and reshaping the present. When we talk about the climate crisis, we tend to think first of the apocalyptical scenario that will affect future generations. Unfortunately, we tend to ignore the effects that are already impacting neighboring communities. A cleaner, more just and equal future starts with those small actions that add up to the collective effort of creating a better future. I believe this also translates into our daily life as the anxiety to control our future can constrain our potential to genuinely enjoy the present and help others. Reimagining tomorrow is all about learning from the past and finding balance in our present.”

Dale Taylor, Head of UWC Mahindra College
Photo of Dale Taylor
"When reimagining the future, I think about excellent and meaningful education programs that have an impact for the greater good. When I consider my first 46 days on campus, I cannot help but feel we are very much on our way, if not already there.

Joining United World Colleges was the best decision I have made in a long time. It has been heartening to see us collaborate and rally around to make sure we remain connected to our students in Afghanistan, as we try to facilitate their journey to our campuses as soon as possible. Attending the online Wada (residential house) Meeting showed me how caring and inclusive our community can be. All participants were celebrated and given a chance to express themselves. Moreover, our selected students who made up the Orientation Team for first year students, worked around the clock to ensure a meaningful and effective induction for young people joining us for the first time. I cannot think of anything more selfless and caring on the part of our students."

Lin Kobayashi, UWC International Board Member, Chair of UWC ISAK Japan

"In today's increasingly divided world, the UWC mission of making education a force to unite people, cultures, and nations is more relevant than ever. I believe not only in the power of education but in the power of young people who can become catalysts for positive change and help us “Reimagine” the future of the world."

Lural Ramirez, Head of UWC Thailand
Photo of Ángeles (UWC-USA, 2021-2023)
"We are at a time in our history when daily events the world over can, quite literally, bring us to our knees in disbelief and in despair. The entirety of it all can test the most resilient among us. With this intense need in mind, there is never a more important time to inspire deep, reflective thinking that is systems-minded and rooted in social justice ideals. If we strive for a reimagined future, let that aspiration most benefit those in greatest need, let our energies and attention rest first upon the collaboration we can achieve in order to make shifts that both make a positive local impact and that also thread a line of coherent impact globally. The UWC movement holds great expectation and hope in its heart and in the many hands of those who come together, believing in themselves and in one another, with confidence that together, in celebration of what is unique about each of us and united in the commonalities we share, we can make an important difference in the world."

Sum Nga Wan, Vice Principal (Education), UWC Changshu China

"Innovation. The UWC movement started in 1962 as an education ‘experiment’ when Kurt Hahn brought students from various backgrounds to study together at UWC Atlantic College to prevent future conflicts. When I attended Pearson College UWC between 2002-2004, I received a transformational education experience where UWC sowed the seeds of international and intercultural understanding in me. Now in 2021, the global health epidemic has been a wake-up call to educators worldwide to recognize the increasingly complex, ambiguous and dynamic nature of global challenges. UWC schools and colleges must remain at the forefront of international education to listen, learn, grow, and innovate; to cultivate among our students the necessary competencies to make positive social change now and in the future."

Naheed Bardai, Principal of UWC Atlantic
Photo of Ángeles (UWC-USA, 2021-2023)
"As we reimagine the future of UWC, the movement must be at the forefront of tackling climate justice both in the way our education takes place at our schools and in the tangible actions we take. And with climate justice being at the intersection of human and natural systems, we have to continuously advocate for individuals and communities who are marginalised and underrepresented."

Andrew Mahlstedt, Global National Committee Development Consultant at the UWC International Office
Photo of Ángeles (UWC-USA, 2021-2023)"I recently heard an interesting metaphor from a wise educator-friend of mine. Often, in programs like UWC, it feels like we’re looking to find “racehorses” – a highly trained, high-cost investment, with the hope that there is a high-return. He suggested an alternative model, where education is looking to grow “saplings” in a forest – working with many, rather than few; where the expectation is not that every sapling becomes the mother tree, but rather that they’ll all grow to different heights, and each contribute in different ways to the forest ecosystem. Perhaps in UWC we can move away from our history, which I think emerged from a racehorse model of education and “leadership,” and imagine ourselves a bit more as nurturing saplings."

Ken Kurugu, Member of the UWC Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Group of the UWC International BoardPhoto of Ángeles (UWC-USA, 2021-2023)

"As the UWC Anti-Racism Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Group begins to help put in place processes, systems and structures in the battle against systemic racism; championing diversity, equality and inclusion within the system - I remember the student at the core. 

How are we RE-IMAGINING a UWC that isn't idyllic but a version of reality that: is SAFE for difficult discussions and the exploration of the difficult issues that plague the world; LISTENS and RESPONDS to the community and is internally responsive and safe. 

We are only at the beginning of a journey. This RE-IMAGINATION will take time and healing but we look forward to including the movement at large.

You can read Ken's full reflection on this year's UWC Day theme on behalf of the UWC ARDEI SG here

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