Dozens of high-schoolers attend annual seminar on global events

| Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:04 p.m.

Having read a biography on Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Gabe Ren said he was inspired to pursue a career in business or finance — and maybe even enter politics later in life.

Businesses such as Google and Apple have had a positive, tangible impact on global society, the rising junior in North Allegheny Senior High School said, and staying informed about world events will help him be successful in a career in international business.

“It's really important to know what's going on in the world,” Ren, 15, said.

That interest in international events led Ren and 32 other area high school students — plus three visiting students from Islamabad, Pakistan — to spend two weeks of their summer vacation attending the Summer Seminar on Global Issues at the University of Pittsburgh.

The conference, which runs through Friday, is being hosted by Pitt and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that promotes discussion of international events in Western Pennsylvania and focuses on teaching students about global issues.

Siddarth Narayan, a rising junior in North Allegheny Senior High School, said the seminar has been great, and the enthusiastic staff and variety of speakers have been some of the best parts.

“No matter what you're interested in, there's a speaker from your interest area,” Narayan, 16, said.

Speakers at the conference include Scott Kofmehl, the State Department's senior Vietnam desk officer, and NPR “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep.

The students read Inskeep's book, “Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi.” The book provided a basis for their classes at the conference, which is a different teaching approach than in the past, said Teresa Leatherow, 17, a program veteran who will be a senior this fall in Seneca Valley High School.

Though the program has been offered for 38 years, this year's event — which cost $400 each for students — was enhanced to meet a need for “high quality, intensive summer programming for high school students that places an emphasis on international content knowledge, career and world language exploration and college readiness” in the area, World Affairs Council spokeswoman Emily Markham said.

The program now is two weeks instead of one and includes language classes in Mandarin Chinese or Arabic.

Students said the language classes were a good addition.

“You are more immersed in a culture by learning the language,” said Ren, who is studying Arabic.

Logan Short, 17, a rising senior in Ambridge Area High School and a returning participant, said he attended again because of how helpful the program is for students interested in global events.

“A two-week program allows you to pique your interest in world affairs,” he said. “The World Affairs Council is a great first step for anyone interested in international affairs.”

Leatherow agreed, adding that interacting with foreign students fostered a spirit of international camaraderie in addition to teaching them about global current events.

“In today's job market it's so important to be globally literate,” she said. “But it's not competitive here. We're not competing with one another. We're all learning together.”

Corinne Kennedy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at

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