Growing up without growing older

Dare to GROW

February 19, 2015  |  By Ana-Maria Gatejel, Romania

Growing up without growing older

LEARN. PRACTICE. STEP UP. These are not some lousy words to describe everyday school activities. They acctually mean something for the initiated. What you have to do in order to become part of the movement? Well to be PROACTIVE, to get involved, to care about yourself, about your community, and what is of paramount importance, to GROW.

If I’ve awaken your interest it’s time for you to know what I’m blabbering about. GROW it’s not a concept. It’s as real as me and you, the reader. It’s an initiative that materialises over time. But enough with the mystery.

GROW, as its creators named it, is a national project of non-formal education designed exclusively  for high school students. The initiative came from the School of Values, but in order for this project to take place, a partnership with AIESEC was made.

Why is GROW unique in Romania?

First thing you should know about GROW is that it’s a worldwide concept. Even if it is a national project, the trainers are foreign students ready to become your friends. I said trainers not teachers because they are there for a cultural and an ideological exchange. They are chosen very carefully by AIESEC and trained by the School of Values. Of course the teaching language is English.

If you wonder how trainers are found that are suitable for guiding young minds, Stefania Surariu, an AIESECer  from the Organizers’ team was more than happy to inform us. ‘The procedure is simple: Skype interviews, tricky questions, imaginary situations to deal with, and of course the ability to work with a bunch of noisy teenagers. No biggie so far, but the final decision is damn hard’, she says.

Another interesting aspect of this innovative project is its sustainability. The curriculum is designed for each age group, from 9th graders to 12th. Each group has a different trainer specifically qualified. Besides that every year’s  curriculum is somehow related to the next one, but that doesn’t mean that if you missed a year you are doomed.

As Stefania Surariu said: ‘What I know about the curriculum is just the basic stuff, because it is built by the School of Value. AIESEC just promotes the project and contributes the human resources. So from what I heard the syllabus is projected taking into consideration social, psychological and educational factors. The thing I know for sure is that the curriculum is authorised by the Education Council.’

To convince myself that this project deserves public attention I demanded more than my personal opinion and therefore opinions of other students. In order for this project to achieve its goals it needs participants, so that they receive the benefits. For participation, a small tax has to be paid in order to secure the foreigners’ accommodation, but the high school students are not discouraged by it.

When asked What GROW meant for him, one such student, Andrei, answered enthusiastically: ‘Besides the great opportunity to improve my English skills, I discovered other abilities I didn’t have the slightest idea I possessed, and of course I’ve made some new friends.’

Maria also hurried to answer: ‘ Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is not a suicidal act, at least in my case. I’ve participated in 4 GROW sessions and I’m a bit sad that for me it comes to an end. But now I know that I want to be part of the AIESEC too.’

Even though the feedback came out to be mostly positive from the previous attendant, there are some who were not so impressed with this extra-curricular activity. Radu commented laughing nervously: ‘I don’t think this project had such great impact upon my life because I was there to impress someone, so never thought about it as a real experience.’

Even though catching the target audience’s attention was a success, let’s have an insight view regarding this educational process. Interviewing former trainers was crucial for the quality of this article. But for me there was not much surprise when I discovered why they were chosen for this position. Open-minded graduate students that felt it is their duty to offer their time and energy for a noble purpose, preparing the next generation for real life.

Aline, a Brazilian girl, after graduating the Psychology Course, decided that it’s time to go on the field and analyse the sinuous mind of teenagers. After a Skype interview with the AIESEC representatives she was elected to teach the 12th graders about universal topics like managing financial resources, self-awareness, sexuality, leadership and so on and so forth.

When asked about the whole mechanism of teaching she answered freely: ‘I don’t deny it is hard, and not everyone is suitable for this kind of activities but so far I am not disappointed for applying, because the collective fitted me like a glove.‘

Now it depends on you how you’ll use this piece of information about GROW, but remember, laziness is the only obstacle that stops your growth.

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