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… Brazil’s youth has little faith in political leaders. But they have faith in themselves. 
    
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Inside Look: Brazil's Future - What the Media is Missing
Brazil’s youth has little faith in political leaders. But they have faith in themselves.   

 

Just being able to teach and inspire someone, even with barriers such as language and culture, is a challenge worth accepting. 


 


Stories of Connection:  Experiencing the US Education System 

Brazilian teachers come to Denver to collaborate and engage with our education system and increase their cultural awareness

 


Impact in Action: How to Adapt to Anything 

Nathaniel King shares the impact the US-Brazil Connect Fellowship has had on his life. 

Brazil's Future - What the Media is Missing  

By MARY GERSHWIN, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, US-BRAZIIL CONNECT

     
 

As the impeachment trial of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff proceeds, I’m reminded of the old saying, “Brazil is not for beginners.”  Articles by observers with little inside knowledge of Brazil proclaim the current political and economic crisis in Brazil is a return to the lost decade of the 1980s, when inflation hit over 400% and unemployment was rampant. These observers assume Brazil’s gains of the past twenty years will wash away like sand castles on Copacabana beach. 

It’s actually much more complex.

There is no question that Brazil is in serious trouble, but the beginners are making the classic mistake of missing the shift that has fundamentally transformed this country of 200 million people. From 1999-2011, Brazil’s economy expanded, moving over forty million people from poverty to the middle class. Unlike recent periods of economic growth in the United States, where gains have primarily benefited those at the top, Brazil’s season of growth lifted those at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. During the expansion, the income level of the poorest 40% of the population rose, on average, 7.1% (in real terms), compared to a 4.4% income growth for the population as a whole.

This shift has been much more than a matter of adding money to people’s pockets. There has been a transformation in education and expectations of millions of Brazilians. From 1990 through 2010, Brazil’s increase in the educational attainment of the labor force was one of the fastest on record in the world.

To get a sense of what this shift means, look deeper than the numbers. I go back to my first trip to Brazil in 1975. Almost before you perceived a person’s gender, you knew their class and status in society. How someone walked and held their head conveyed much more than their economic position—it was a statement of one’s destiny and expectations. Class was identity. It seemed as solid as concrete, serving as a foundation for day-to-day life. And, especially for the poor, the implications were inescapable: if you were born poor, you were destined to die poor. 

When I returned to Brazil in 1995, at the beginning of the recent economic boom, the fabric of class was beginning to fray as poor people were finding opportunity. The change was striking: I could feel it in the street. It was no longer so easy to automatically perceive someone’s class at a glance. Class as identity in Brazil had started to crumble. I have returned again and again over the past fifteen years, watching the transformation. Since 2012, I’ve participated in the changes as US-Brazil Connect has joined forces with the Brazilian Confederation of Industry to bring 500 emerging leaders from the US together with 5000 Brazilian students in 32 Brazilian cities for educational exchange and leadership development.

Through our partnerships, our US-Brazil Connect Fellows have gained deep understanding of Brazil’s complexities by working and learning side-by-side with Brazil’s next generation. Over 98% of our US-Brazil Connect Fellows say the best part of our program is connecting with these young Brazilians. We work together intensely, over a period of seven months, including six months via technology and one month on the ground in Brazil. Our Brazilian students are primarily from modest backgrounds, but these backgrounds don’t define them. They have fully embraced the idea that if you work hard, you should be able to get ahead. They have an entrepreneurial spirit and discipline. They are curious and skilled.  Connected via technology, they are not just aware of global issues, they have made friends around the world.

In my experience, Brazil’s youth has little faith in political leaders. But they have faith in themselves.   And, unlike generations before them who had little hope for the future, this generation has dreams and expectations for a better life. They have rejected the notion that the poor will always be among us.  

Any predictions about Brazil’s future must consider the role this generation will play in shaping what is to come. Today, the real question is not whether Brazil will return to the old patterns. Rather, the question is-- What future will this new generation create?

 “US-Brazil Connect is an amazing program that I am excited and grateful to be a part of. Not only do I get to travel to a country I have dreamed about, but I also get to coach and learn from the locals in the area. Just being able to teach and inspire someone, even with barriers such as language and culture, is a challenge worth accepting. I am most looking forward to being a part of the progression from acquaintances to friends, and watching the students open doors that English can offer them. In the end, I hope someone becomes inspired to travel and learn from others, leaving nothing but good memories and connections,” Stephanie Fiebing, a Fellow from NMC, shared her enthusiasm. 

Beginning on May 2, students from Cacoal, Rondônia and Fellows from Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) in Traverse City, Michigan began working together on Facebook. The start of their connection marks the beginning of US-Brazil Connect’s fifth year of the US-Brazil Connect Fellowship and the Conexão Mundo program.  Both Brazilian students and US Fellows alike are thrilled about this year’s program and the friendships and leadership opportunities that will come from it.

The other two US-Brazil Connect teams from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana, began working with their groups of Brazilian students from Porto Velho, Rondônia and Macapá, Amapá, respectively, on May 9. Be sure to stay connected to hear more about program highlights and updates from the students and Fellows themselves!

 
 

Learning About Each Others Educations Systems

 

Last month we were so fortunate to have Pedro Gonclaves and Lucy Silva in Denver! Pedro and Lucy are both Brazilian teachers who excelled in the OUTSpoken program in 2015, and therefore were selected to travel to the US to continue their exposure to North America's education system and increase cultural awareness. During their trip, Pedro and Lucy engaged in partnerships with DCIS Montbello and DU, attended the World Affairs Conference at CU Boulder, volunteered at a local homeless shelter and enjoyed the beauty of Denver and the mountains.  Innovative education ideas come from this cross cultural exchange, and both US and Brazilian teachers are able to improve as educators from learning from one another. 


Utilizing the same methods that have made Conexão Mundo such a success, OUTSpoken was designed to bring global leaders from the US, together with Brazilian teachers in the technical school systems of SESI and SENAI. 

The Brazilian OUTSpoken Coordinator, Lidiane Bandeira says:  We see that they (the professors) look like kids that are learning something new. In these weeks (in Brazil) they seem to speak and listen much better. This project is very important for our professors because they feel so motivated and I really think that when classes begin again here with the students they will be so much better as teachers and as human beings.” 

Over 500... that's the number of young American lives we have impacted. Nathaniel King shares a bit about how his experiences as a fellow have impacted his life. 

"The most important lesson I took away from US-Brazil Connect was that language is such a powerful tool to connect people and see the world through a different lens. The Fellowship has impacted me in a number of ways. Personally, it has made me a more outgoing and adventurous person. I feel like I can connect with anybody from any walk of life now. Professionally, it has helped my group communication, leadership and discipline. After working with a tight group in Jaragua, you really learn how to adapt to different situations. You realize that you're there for the students, so you do whatever it takes to make sure they have the best experience possible." 


Copyright © 2016 US-Brazil Connect, All rights reserved.


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