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Group helps students

| Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, 12:00 p.m.

Terrorism, globalization, nuclear proliferation.

These are a few of the heavy topics that the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh has spotlighted in the past few years. As it celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the council continues to bring the world to Western Pennsylvania.

Through an array of programs, from monthly briefings to summer seminars, the council has touched nearly 300 schools -- mostly high schools -- in 10 Western Pennsylvania counties. In recent years, the council has extended its reach to elementary and middle school students.

"We felt it is important to reach out earlier," said Annie Prucey, the council's education director. "Our main objective is to help educate students as well as teachers on critical international issues and how they affect this region as well as the U.S. We do that by providing information and resources; what we don't provide are answers or positions on these issues."

Although the council's target audience is students, many teachers said they also have benefited from its offerings.

"Regionally, it's the best collaborative to bring resources for education on global issues," said Stephen Bullick, social studies supervisor for the Mt. Lebanon School District.

Last fall, a dozen middle schools participated in the council's new student ambassador program, in which the council taps its local network of speakers to enlighten students on issues concerning Africa. In May, 300 to 400 students will present what they have learned at a conference at the University of Pittsburgh.

The council aims to foster critical thinking by students, Prucey said.

The council has offered global travel scholarships to six students each of the past two summers. The competitive five-month scholarships, worth up to $6,000 per student, are granted to those who make the best case, in English and a foreign language, for why they yearn to travel overseas.

Three students of Rich Stanczak, coordinator of the gifted program in social studies for the Woodland Hills School District, won the scholarships during the past two years.

"You can see how they grew as individuals. You can see their tremendous growth," Stanczak said of the students, who explored Argentina and Costa Rica. "The experience sticks with them for the rest of their lives."

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