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Character Education

It Was Epic! — NextGen Character Education Interns in Asia

You've heard of Generation X. But have you heard of NextGen? If you haven't, you're in for a treat.

The NextGen Leadership Academy was established on the West Coast of the US in 2005 to help young adults transition out of the high school environment into the larger world, whether into a university or some other situation. The mission statement says the Academy exists to "Challenge and empower the next generation to create lives of authenticity, abundance, and altruism." The Seattle-based Academy seeks to help young people build self-confidence, self-awareness, and foster maturity to better prepare them for family life and their college and/or other career.

Interning for character education in far-flung lands fit right into The NextGen Leadership Academy's goals. Therefore, in spite of natural trepidation, in March-April 2008, NextGen members fanned out to South and Southeast Asian countries. Starting at 2:30 a.m. on March 26, they piled into the airport, said goodbye to well-wishing family members and friends, and flew twenty long hours to Thailand, from whence they were to depart to their separate mission countries.

Being young, they had enough energy after their plane trip to do some sightseeing in the hot (42 degrees C, 110 degrees F) weather in Thailand, dodging both tame elephants and wild taxi drivers! They visited the Palace of the King, two of the most famous Buddhist temples in the world, and serenaded Thais by bursting into song on a public bus. Their efforts were rewarded by smiles, waves, and applause.

Beginning there, the young interns learned the most important lesson of character education: no matter where you go in the world, it is the heart of caring and service you bring to others that really matters. "It's almost never what you say. It's about your heart," said Heung Kook Stephens, a young male intern.

They say that when a person serves, he or she winds up benefiting more than the people served. "I received more than I gave," and "I learned more than I taught" are common comments from people who reach out to connect with people around the world who may be in less fortunate circumstances. As we affirm the value and humanity of others through love and service, we discover much about our own.


Jeff Adshead, Executive Director of the NextGen Leadership Academy, was inspired to see his charges going so far beyond themselves to help others: "I am so impressed by their willingness to act in spite of fear, anxiety, doubt. They are learning a lot about themselves through this experience."

See detailed reports from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

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