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Cross Cultural Immersion Through Bioneers

Students Participate in Cross Cultural Immersion Experience Through Bioneers

By Isabel Rodriguez-Vega, Sustainability Programs Coordinator and Educator

Students from several of O’Dowd’s Advanced Leadership Teams participated in a unique, transformative program called “Intercultural Conversations” organized by the Bioneers Organization. Bioneers is an innovative nonprofit that supports breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet through year round programs and their annual national conference. Intercultural Conversations was started within the Bioneers Indigeneity Program, aiming to engage and connect both Native and non-Native youth in conversations around critical environmental and social justice issues.

Six O’Dowd students from leadership groups Eco Leaders, Solidarity In Action, and the Associated Student Body were invited to participate in this eight-month program along with young people from The American Child Resource Center in Oakland, The New School in Atlanta, and Rez Refuge in Arizona. Before engaging in the conference, all participants met virtually for “Talking Circles” to discuss topics including Native-Led Movements and Intercultural Allyship. They joined together in Arizona to visit the Rez Refuge group on their homeland and learn about Navajo & Hopi culture. During this time students served local elders and community groups, visited the White House Ruins, and even helped butcher a sheep. While the students learned a lot about other cultures, the most impactful part of the trip was the connections they made with young people from backgrounds vastly different from their own. 

The program experience culminated at the Bioneers Conference in Marin, October 17-20, where all groups reunited to hear from the world’s most visionary environmental activists and Indigenous leaders. Students heard from speakers such as Bill McKibben, Terry Tempest Williams, Eve Ensler, Valarie Kaur, Heather McTeer Toney, and local youth climate activist Isha Clarke. These leading thinkers and activists spoke on topics such as climate change, destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the importance of diverse representation in the environmental movement, and the power of love to lead our movements for social and environmental justice. Students came back from this experience feeling inspired and deeply changed in ways they never expected. Read just a handful of their thoughts below:

“…I realized from this experience the most important thing that anyone can do is to go out, step out of the house, talk to people and if you can, try and live in solidarity with the people who are suffering the most. I have a heart full of gratitude for the Bioneers organization for giving us such an amazing life-changing experience that helped me create relationships that will last a lifetime and to allow me to experience living in solidarity with the indigieous people and learning so much about our own lands as well as the environment.”

“This is my senior year so I am applying to colleges and thinking about what career path I want to take. The ‘Intercultural Conversation Talking Circles,’ the Navajo Reservation trip, and the Bioneers Conference have been a hugely influential factor in this choice….I hope to become an ally to people of all different types of backgrounds and offer my support to anyone who needs it. Bioneers has taught me the importance of unity and gave me experiences I will never forget.”

<img class="size-full wp-image-33493 lazyload" src="" alt="Hiking to the White House Ruins in the Canyon De Chelly" width="1000" height="750" srcset=" 1000w, 300w, 768w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /> Hiking to the White House Ruins in the Canyon De Chelly

<img class=" wp-image-33491 lazyload" src="" alt="Community service on the Hopi reservation" width="998" height="748" srcset=" 1000w, 300w, 768w" sizes="(max-width: 998px) 100vw, 998px" /> Community service on the Hopi reservation

<img class="size-full wp-image-33492 lazyload" src="" alt="At the Bioneers Conference in Marin" width="1000" height="750" srcset=" 1000w, 300w, 768w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /> At the Bioneers Conference in Marin


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