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Stories of Citizen Diplomacy: Connecting Philadelphia to the World
Tuesday, October 19 2021

Have you heard of Expo 2020 Dubai? If you haven’t yet, here is your chance to read up on this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Taking place October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, Expo 2020 Dubai is a six-month long showcase of the world’s greatest innovation and achievements. There are 192 countries represented, each with their own pavilion in the Expo village constructed specifically for this event. World Expos have been taking place for 170 years and have served as a platform to reveal some of history’s greatest inventions and discoveries, such as the Space Needle and Eiffel Tower. World Expos have been a hub for food innovation as well, including the debut of popcorn and Heinz Ketchup right here at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition in 1876.

Expo 2020 Dubai is the first Expo to be held in the Middle East and has the most countries ever represented at a World Expo. The USA Pavilion celebrates the United States’ commitment to innovation and opportunity with the phrase “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Future.” An integral part of the USA Pavilion team are 75 Youth Ambassadors selected to be the “Face of America” and represent the diversity and dynamism of the United States.

We had the opportunity to speak with two Youth Ambassadors from our region - Alyssa Kristeller from Scranton, PA and Tarek Meah from Bergen County, NJ. They told us about their experience living in an international city like Dubai and the opportunity to have cultural exchange with Expo 2020 Dubai visitors from all over the globe. They continue to meet people from new countries with each passing day. Even among the Youth Ambassadors alone, there are 24 different languages spoken!

“It just makes you realize how big this world is but also how connected we can still be.” -Alyssa

Having studied architecture and environmental design, Tarek explained how the design of each pavilion captures the philosophies and ideals of every represented country. Each country is sharing their narrative with the world under the Expo 2020 Dubai theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.” Our Youth Ambassadors touched on the value of learning not only about their global peers, but also about themselves.

“One thing that being here has taught me is to have faith and confidence in what makes me unique.” -Tarek

Posted by: AT 01:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, June 25 2021

Here at Citizen Diplomacy International, we are always happy to express our gratitude for our amazing supporters and donors who help to make our programs possible. Last week, we had the opportunity to do exactly that at our Donor Appreciation Afternoon Tea!

Prior to the event, 100 of our most dedicated donors received a care package in the mail which included everything you need to take a break from the work day and relax with a cup of tea. Also included was a scratch-off map of the world so that those of us yearning for international travel can start dreaming of the future. We all came together for a virtual moment of relaxation, while celebrating our donors and some of our recent accomplishments.

Our President and CEO Siobhan Lyons kicked us off by welcoming our guests and highlighting a few of the ambitious goals that we were able to accomplish:

The IVLP remained strong as we transitioned to more virtual programs. We were able to hold 64 virtual exchange programs and welcome over 200 international visitors between February and June.

“We are still doing the hard work of promoting Philadelphia, showcasing our city, connecting these amazing visitors to all of the wonderful people here in Philadelphia and so far all of the programs are going really well and they’re all looking forward to coming and visiting us again, finally, when in-person travel returns.”

We have hosted many inspiring guests for our Diplomacy and Dialogue program, but we had a particularly special one for Earth Day in March. An IVLP alumna, Amina Ansari from Pakistan and Kareem Afzal, CEO of PDC Machines joined us to talk about sustainability and how we need to look at different technologies to solve climate change.

Perhaps our most exciting accomplishment was launching the Citizen Diplomat Academy - an online exchange program for high school and university students. This helped to fill the void of one of our biggest losses in the pandemic, which was offering international exchange for Philadelphia students with our sister cities. Support from our donors made it possible for 66 students from Philadelphia and Frankfurt, Germany to collaborate in our first exchange.

Siobhan then moved on to the most exciting part of our event and interviewed two of the high school students who completed our program, Tolu Olaleye and Timothy Dock. Both students offered great insight into their experiences and showed us the importance of global exchange, especially at a time when travel is restricted.

“I really liked [guest speaker] Suchit Bachalli, who showed us how to be a good leader both in STEM and in general, and I think that’s a very important characteristic to have even if you’re not a leader and even if you’re not going into STEM, and he really emphasized that you have to be yourself. Otherwise, you’re just going to run yourself dry trying to be someone you aren’t.”  -Timothy

"I think it's very important to speak with other teenagers like myself who come from different countries, cultures, and different ways of life to see how much we have in common, but also highlight and express our differences."

We wrapped up the tea break with a few announcements about upcoming events. The Citizen Diplomat Academy is gearing up for another exchange this summer with students in Dubai. The Expo is also being held in Dubai this year so we’re hoping to have some Philadelphia representatives as student ambassadors and cultural performers.

Also coming up is a new Diplomacy and Dialogue with another IVLP alumna, Nagham Mohanna, a journalist from Gaza who will reflect on her time here in Philadelphia as well as offer a broader perspective on the Palestinian story. Additionally, we will be hosting the Mandela Fellows this year for a virtual coffee chat, and are looking forward to having our supporters meet and talk with them this summer.

In September, we will finally be honoring Heather Templeton Dill and Jennifer Templeton Simpson at our Citizen Diplomats of The Year event. We will be highlighting more stories from more students from the Citizen Diplomat Academy and talking to Heather and Jennifer about the amazing work that the Templeton Foundation does to promote ideas around civil dialogue, big ideas, what makes people human, and how we can change the world.

“We’ve been building plenty of connections so that we can invite people back once the borders are open.”

Watch the video of this event below and read about upcoming events by checking back at our website. It was great to celebrate our amazing donors, guests, and students and we look forward to seeing YOU at our next event!

Posted by: AT 02:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, May 07 2021
Sister City High School Exchange Teacher Receives Prestigious Award

“Nobody is more deserving!!!” exclaimed principal Nimet Eren

On Saturday, May 8, 2021, Angela Iovine, from Kensington Health Sciences Academy (KHSA), will receive the National Liberty Museum’s Teacher as Hero Award sponsored by State Farm® with a Virtual Awards. Angela was selected to be one of 10 inspiring teachers for her work making a difference in the lives of students. The Awards will be presented by State Farm Representatives, National Liberty Museum leadership, friends and family on Zoom. 

Like Citizen Diplomacy’s exchange programs on freedom and democracy, the National Liberty Museum envisions a world where all people understand and embrace the contemporary meaning and significance of liberty and are empowered to take transformative action to ensure liberty for themselves and others.

In nominating Angela for the award, Siobhan Lyons, Citizen Diplomacy President & CEO, said,

“Angela Iovine embodies what a Citizen Diplomat can do to help her students become aware of their global world. By working with Citizen Diplomacy International, Angela has provided her students the opportunity for world travel as well as hosting students and teachers from our Sister Cities in Philadelphia for an experience that will be with them forever,”

In 2018, Angela helped her students prepare Citizen Diplomacy International’s Florence-Philadelphia Sister City High School Exchange with community schools. Kensington Health Sciences Academy is a public high school located in Kensington Philadelphia, a neighborhood that makes national headlines as the heart of the opioid epidemic. They are one of 12 community schools in the city of Philadelphia, named by Mayor Jim Kenney, to work with a community school coordinator to bring existing partners and resources to the school to provide students with incredible learning opportunities.

Eight students from Kensington Health Sciences Academy joined 11 other students from Dobbins CTE High School, George Washington High School, and South Philadelphia High School represented their school, city, and nation as a part of a delegation from Philadelphia to our Sister City, Florence, Italy.  Partners at Culinary Careers in the Arts Program supported students in job training and summer paid internships that contributed to their travel costs.  And the Free Library of Philadelphia provided classes about Italian culture and language.

On this once-in-a-lifetime trip, students stayed in the homes of students from the Istituto Aurelio Saffi, a Hospitality and Culinary Arts High School in Florence. They learned technical culinary skills unique to Italy, participated in a health-related service project with their Italian peers, and visited cultural and historic sites. While in Italy, they also had the chance to take in the sights and food of Siena and Pisa.

Their Italian classmates traveled to Philadelphia for the second part of the exchange in March 2019.  Angela ensured that her Philadelphia students hosted Italian students at their homes and schools and had the opportunity to return the generosity they experienced abroad. During their stay in Philadelphia, students visited Di Bruno Brothers, Reading Terminal Market, an urban farm, and Philadelphia’s best culinary landmarks. Mayor Kenney officially welcomed our Florentine students and their teachers on their reciprocal culinary exchange at City Hall and a pasta-making class at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

A passionate advocate for educational equity, Angela has taught at Kensington Health Sciences as an English teacher for 15 years. She has advocated for the importance of public schools and Career and Technical Education curriculum. Her 2019 testimony on behalf of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools captures her dedication as a teacher,

“At KHSA, we strive to offer our kids everything we can to level the playing field in the name of educational equity. At our school, we accept everyone. There is no application process, which can sometimes be a hurdle for struggling families. This year, I teach 10th grade English. Typically, as sophomores, students have some growing pains because the work is difficult. I tell them, as well as their parents, when I call to introduce myself, that it’s my job, my RESPONSIBILITY,  to give them the challenging college preparatory class that they would have in a more selective school BECAUSE THEY DESERVE IT.”

Until students and teachers can safely travel internationally, Citizen Diplomacy is offering free, 4-week virtual exchanges for high school and college students in the Citizen Diplomat Academy.  In two exchange topics, “How to Succeed as a STEM Innovator” and “How to Succeed as a Social Innovator” students met new friends internationally. They learn to be Citizen Diplomats and apply the core skills of diplomacy, cross-cultural dialogue, STEM entrepreneurship and social innovation. Guest speakers are featured from top universities, start-up businesses, social innovation labs, and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and around the world.  

The Citizen Diplomat Academy program is free and enrolling now for the summer July and August sessions. More information and sponsorship options are available at


Citizen Diplomacy International is a nonprofit organization that empowers Philadelphians to represent our city and the United States through person-to-person diplomacy. We believe that personal interactions help shape U.S. foreign relations, have an impact on our national security and the United States’ reputation around the world. Our network of volunteer Citizen Diplomats welcomes nearly 1300 international visitors every year to Philadelphia on high school exchange programs, professional exchange programs, and trade missions. We partner with the Department of State and the City of Philadelphia to host international delegations and show them all of the great things that Philadelphia's world-famous for - which is more than just cheesesteaks. International exchange contributes to the world's growth and stability and enriches Philadelphia with a deeper understanding of world cultures and ideas.

The National Liberty Museum brings liberty to life through stories of people whose character and courage have expanded liberty for all. Through robust programs and dynamic exhibitions, the Museum presents the stories of people whose positive actions inspire us to protect and advance liberty for all.

Kensington Health Sciences Academy is a public high school located in Kensington Philadelphia. The mission of Kensington Health Sciences Academy is to prepare every student academically and holistically to be responsible, caring community members, ready for college or career upon graduation. We strive to accomplish this by building our community together, learning through inquiry, valuing integrity, and celebrating learning. Thirty teachers and three counselors educate 450 students in four majors, Health Related Technology, Dental Assisting, Pharmacy Technology, and Global Leadership. School website -

Posted by: Andrea Silva AT 12:19 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, March 25 2021
Wendy Williams Receives Global Ties Network Decade of Impact Leadership Award

It is with great honor that we congratulate board member Wendy Williams for receiving the Global Ties Network "Decade of Impact Leadership Award." Her membership and leadership to Citizen Diplomacy International have spanned 26 years.

President of JR Resources, a WBE-certified, promotional products company, Wendy has offices in San Diego, CA, and Philadelphia, PA, and is deeply committed to the success of the larger Global Ties Network. She has attended all but one National Meeting for the past 15 years, developing relationships with peers across the country and visiting PA Senators Casey and Toomey lobby for IVLP funding.

A consummate ambassador for Philadelphia, Wendy has represented our region at the formal welcome of the Women of Courage in Washington DC under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  Wendy was selected by the State Department in May 2001 to travel on a reciprocal exchange to Kazan and Orenberg, Russia after 911.

 “I am always representing Citizen Diplomacy. When I was in Kenya and Tanzania on a water trip or personal travels to our Sister Cities of Florence and Aix-en-Florence. My passion is being an ambassador.”

Locally, Wendy is a key liaison to the metropolitan area tourism and hospitality network, who are critical partners in welcoming international program participants. In July 2019, she welcomed Vice Mayor of Sister City Tianjin to discuss educational opportunities to increase the number of students studying in Philadelphia.

She leverages her platform as a company owner to promote and elevate women entrepreneurs internationally. Most importantly, she always goes the extra step to thank international guests for coming to Philadelphia personally and intentionally mentors past IV participants to promote their current work.

Global Ties U.S. received nominations from across the United States and winners were selected by a committee comprised of leadership from Global Ties U.S. and the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State. In honor of the Global Ties U.S. 60th anniversary, six professionals were recognized as outstanding individuals whose service and contributions exemplify citizen diplomacy.

Thank you Wendy for your longtime dedication as a Citizen Diplomat; you are an inspiration to us all.

Posted by: Andrea Silva AT 03:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, December 02 2020
Power Women in Diplomacy

The participation of women in politics is key to our future. Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier mentions how important it is for women to be involved in politics and dialogue. Now, that travel has been put on pause due to the pandemic, virtual programs have become an important opportunity for women to exchange ideas and engage in political conversations no matter where they are in the world. 

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Thursday, November 26 2020
Happy German American Friendship Day

In October, Citizen Diplomacy International hosted a Dialogue and Diplomacy series with David Gill, the Consul General of Germany in New York, to celebrate our relationship with Germany. During times like now, discussion and collaboration are even more necessary to unite people and nations together. 

Posted by: AT 10:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, November 18 2020
Youth Exchange Philly and Egypt

Alia, a student from Egypt shares her story of how the virtual youth exchange program, 'How to Succeed as an Innovator', inspired her to learn how to be successful in medicine. This program gave her the opportunity to gain advice from a mentor and collaborate with students in the US. Virtual programs continue to help international students exchange ideas and learn how to become stronger innovators even during a pandemic. 

Posted by: Robin Truitt AT 09:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, November 12 2020
With Love From Ireland

Siobhán Lyons, president and CEO of Citizen Diplomacy International, greets us from her home in Ireland.

Posted by: Robin Truitt AT 09:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 13 2020
Positive Power of Woman in Diplomacy: MaryLou Spang

Photo credit: kapuPatel Photography

Woman in Diplomacy MaryLou Spang Shares How the Pandemic Has Impacted Her Business — And How She’s Staying Positive

This month, we continue our Women in Diplomacy series celebrating Citizen Diplomat MaryLou Spang, Owner and Creative Director for Spangles Custom Jewelry Designs. A native Philadelphian and Temple alumna, MaryLou and her husband Bill, a Citizen Diplomacy board member, have volunteered for over 30 years, meeting international students and professionals from all over the world. I hope you enjoy these highlights of our most recent conversation:

Posted by: AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, July 21 2020
Announcement: New, Free Virtual Exchange for University Students

I am happy to announce that Philadelphia university students will have access to a new virtual exchange in August - “How to Succeed as an Innovator.”

Many of our region’s university students have not been able to study abroad or participate in internships abroad because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

We don’t want our region’s students to miss out on these unique and transformational learning experiences. Our future global leaders need vital dialogue skills to work with people from other countries; to understand the complexity of global issues; and to develop cross-cultural relationships.

Thanks to the Stevens Initiative, Citizen Diplomacy is one of 18 programs funded as part of the Stevens Initiative Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. With this funding, we are launching "How to Succeed as an Innovator” and it is fully underwritten for students to take part in for free.

This virtual international exchange is exclusively designed to connect students in Philadelphia and Egypt, between the ages of 18 - 22 years old, who are interested in improving our world through science, technology, engineering, and math innovations. Young adults with a passion for STEM need to understand that to successfully bring an innovation to the public, you need to network, build social capital, and think like an entrepreneur.

In this part-time exchange, from August 3 - 26, students will learn key dialogue and cross-cultural communication techniques and discuss the role of dialogue, stereotypes and bias in their community and in the larger global conversation of STEM business leaders of color. They will be introduced to special guest speakers, who are leaders in social entrepreneurship or have brought scientific discoveries to market. And most important, they will connect personally with peers in Egypt.

At the core of Citizen Diplomacy’s mission is building mutual understanding across cultures. Now, as Philadelphia faces its own structural racism, Citizen Diplomacy is teaching our university students to be STEM business leaders who are prepared to have real conversations on stereotypes and bias.

While traditional in-person exchange programs have been cancelled for the summer, virtual exchange programs like 'How to Succeed as an Innovator' continue to be a sustainable and accessible global learning tool.

Follow us on Facebook to see our stories from this exciting new exchange. Read the full press release here.

Take care,


P.S. If you have a university student in your life who is passionate about STEM and would like to participate in this free, virtual exchange, please encourage them to participate and register here.

This program is organized by Citizen Diplomacy International and made possible by a generous grant through The Stevens Initiative Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic The Stevens Initiative is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute. It is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. 

Posted by: Andrea Silva AT 04:52 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

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