Students explore implications of potential economic woes

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 9:39 p.m.

Most high school students are busy this time of year thinking of holiday shopping lists, or at most, college acceptances.

A select group of students from Fox Chapel Area and Shady Side Academy; however, has been spending its days considering national security and the impact of a global economic meltdown.

Ten students from Fox Chapel Area teacher Jen Klein's advanced history class were chosen to attend the World Affairs Institute, along with five Shady Side Academy students, on Nov. 13 at the Sen. John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

Sponsored by Rotary International and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, local students were able to attend the day-long conference thanks to a $750 donation from the Fox Chapel Rotary.

“It was really interesting to hear different perspectives on complicated issues,” said Fox Chapel Area junior Max Jahnke.

“These are things that have a less direct, but more critical impact on the United States.”

The World Affairs Council aims to promote a nuanced understanding of international issues for high school students.

This year's topic, “Understanding the Global Economic Meltdown,” saw 350 juniors and seniors from western Pennsylvania engage in conversations, panels and small groups on issues that included policy implications of a weak economy, how labor markets are affected by trade, why Americans should care about what happens to the Euro, and what would happen if the U.S. backed out of global economic woes.

“This is really nice for the students,” said Klein, who teaches government and history. “They're hearing directly from the experts. Some of it was really fascinating.”

After the panel presentations, students broke into small groups and tried to apply what they learned to a scenario dealing with global economics.

Jahnke, 16, said that was his favorite part of the event.

“We were given a foreign policy situation and my group was acting as rulers of China,” he said. “We had to come up with a policy that is in the best interest of the government, which was difficult because their way of thinking is so much different from other countries.”

Jahnke said he felt lucky to spend the day with other students who care about what's happening outside their back yard.

That's the point of funding the event, said Pat Serey, chair of the Youth Projects Committee of the Fox Chapel Rotary.

“We want to help engage high school student leaders in discussion of key issues and world affairs and help them think critically,” Serey said. “This is an excellent chance to achieve that. One of the important things for Rotary is to advance international understanding, goodwill and peace and this event affords the students the chance to get that.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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