On a five-week cultural and learning visit to Minnesota, Ukrainian students visit Roseville Rotary Club. Program speaker Dr. Irina Fursman, HueLife Team, and White Bear Rotarian shared her story and introduced the students to share their experiences. 

The teens are participating in YouLEAD (for Youth Leadership Engagement and Development Program), an international exchange program where young leaders strengthen their civic engagement and leadership development skills.

Eighteen teenagers from all over Ukraine are participating in this year’s program, spending five weeks in Minnesota. YouLEAD was formed in 2012 and traditionally exchanges teens from Ukraine and Minnesota for a few weeks. This year’s group is a little different — there was no group of Minnesotans to take to Ukraine, and all the Ukraine participants have been impacted somehow by the country’s war with Russia.

According to the program outline, some kids’ families have been displaced in Ukraine over the last year. Fursman said all the teens are currently volunteering and helping out in their respective communities, a significant reason they were chosen for the program, in addition to their leadership potential and service.

The teens arrived in Minnesota on Aug. 10 and have spent time traveling around the state and visiting various attractions. The group has visited locations including the Minnesota Sculpture Garden, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, the Mill City Museum, and the Minneapolis mayor’s office.

During each week, the young leaders participate in leadership activities they can use back home. “All these young leaders have high hopes and confidence in winning the war and are ready to assume responsibilities, when the time comes, to lead their communities and organizations towards a free, connected, and prosperous Ukraine,” Global Synergy Group states on its website.