Leadership

We are experienced international educators.

Founding Directors Anthony Allen, Chris Frantz and John Meislin bring decades of experience running cross-cultural education programs in over 40 countries, collaborating with hundreds of individual and foundation donors, training thousands of professional staff to work with teenagers, and helping students build the skills and confidence to become agents for positive change.

We are non-profit leaders.

Our Board of Directors provides guidance, stewardship and vision.

Robert J. Schweich has had a long career in securities research and portfolio management. He has created scholarship opportunities for high school and college students of color throughout the United States including the establishment of an endowed scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania. Robert and his wife Monique live in New York, NY.

R.F. Derick Bonewitz retired from a career in product development and regulatory affairs at Abbott Laboratories. Since 2006, he has been an adjunct instructor in the Adult Literacy, GED and ESL program at the College of Lake County. Derick and his wife Adriana live in Libertyville, IL.

L’Quentus Thomas is a Director at Stonehenge Capital Company specializing in underserved markets and New Markets Tax Credit transactions. He has fifteen years of experience supporting non-profit organizations. He is a member of the Kenyon College board and founded and serves on the board of The Brooklyn Crescents Lacrosse Club. L’Quentus and his wife Deborah live in Columbus, OH.

We work with a community of remarkable people.

Our professional staff has experience as high school teachers, Peace Corps volunteers, translators, youth mentors and organic farmers. This dedicated group travels the United States interviewing students, leads pre-departure orientation workshops, works with parents, and helps build and facilitate Corps programs overseas.

Our ideas, programs, vision and operation are fueled by a community of experienced international educators, youth advocates, non-profit leaders and experts from around the world. These amazing adults have been personally touched by international education, have accomplished remarkable things and are paying it forward to you.

Click on the pictures below to see what they are saying about The Corps.

Andrew JC Cunningham

Oxford, England and Nairobi, Kenya
Marshall Scholar & PhD Candidate in Comparative International Education, Oxford University
Co-Founder of WISER International
Former Education Consultant for UNICEF

“Student Diplomacy Corps (SDC) is strategically positioned to empower a new generation of young ambassadors with a unique set of skills and competencies needed to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues in cultural understanding, environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, and responsible citizenship. The Corps will admit a select number of talented, diverse, and committed young individuals to engage in one of the most challenging and rewarding summers of their lives. As a result, every graduate of The Corps will become a future leader in their field of interest – set apart by their ability to empathize, understand, explore, and ultimately take action.

Deciding to travel to China when I was 16 was one of the most important decisions I have ever made in my young adult life. Before going, I was a small-town Vermont kid who wanted to be a weatherman. Afterwards, I won the Robertson Scholarship to Duke University based on an essay about my experience in China. A few years later, I was invited by a professor at Duke and at Egerton University in Kenya to co-found an all girls’ secondary boarding school for the most disadvantaged girls in rural southwest Kenya. From my experience as a high school student in China, I knew I had the capacity to start something big and here was my chance. I then moved to Kenya and lived and worked out of a mud-hut for two and a half years until the Women’s Institute of Secondary Education and Research (www.wisergirls.org) opened in 2010 for 120 girls on full scholarship. 2014 marks the year of our first graduating class.

Today, I am a Truman and Marshall Scholar pursuing a PhD in Comparative International Education at Oxford University while consulting with UNICEF and the Kenyan Ministry of Education on how head teachers can utilize mobile phone technologies to measure quality education indicators across 26,000 primary schools and increase levels of accountability, transparency and school effectiveness for the most vulnerable children. Without my experiences abroad, I would not have been exposed to the inequalities that exist and the opportunities to respond and make a difference. This is why I believe in The Corps – because I am living proof that the mission and vision works: a small drop in the ocean will have a ripple-effect no one can predict!

As an advisor for International Program Development, I am working with The Corps to ensure all participants have the most challenging, safe, and meaningful experience abroad.”

Julie Strassel

Chicago, Illinois
M.Ed. Candidate June 2014, DePaul University;
Assistant Teacher, Francis W. Parker School

“The Founding Directors of the Student Diplomacy Corps – leaders and visionaries in international education for adolescents – have helped shape my educational philosophy. The environment and the students I teach may change—first-generation middle school students in the South Bronx, a private high school in Charlotte, arts outreach in a public school on the south side of Chicago, a progressive kindergarten classroom in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago—yet I consistently strive to do a few things: challenge students beyond what they think they are capable of doing, connect them to the world beyond their small bubble, and build a community in which they care about each other.

As a professional within an institution, I also learned from my mentors to stand up for what is right and what is in the best interest of the students at all times. Perhaps I admire this most of the The Corps “trio”—their integrity. They know it is best for international youth programming if the demographic is dynamic and diverse. They know that cannot happen unless scholarships and financial support is a priority. Additionally, their careful relationship building with schools, community-based organizations, mentoring organizations, and donors cultivates community beyond just the participants. It feels like family. I’ve been one of the lucky ones to be a part of this family.

I am so excited for all the young people and adults who will join and support The Corps. I will be rallying support in the Midwest, interviewing students and assisting in anyway I can as part of the Student Diplomacy Corps family.”

José De Jesús

New York, NY
Head of Upper School, Packer Collegiate Institute

“Too often in the field of international education, the very kind of programs that call for a diverse group of participants, opportunities are limited to only a few Americans due to cost. By looking to help bridge that gap, the quality and long term impact of these experiences will be exponential. Student Diplomacy Corps seeks to send the most passionate and engaged students abroad, regardless of their economic circumstances. The sky is the limit for young people of such diversity of life experience. Students will build the confidence, empathy and communication skills that will prepare and inspire them to be leaders in their schools and communities.

I know this from personal experience. From the first few moments on a bus leaving Rio’s international airport when I was 16, my identity has been tied to my passion for international experiences. These experiences have served as both a window and a mirror- showing me both the world and myself. It also inspired me to be a life long learner, a habit of mind that I apply to my work as an educator every single day.

I look forward to working with the Founding Directors of the Student Diplomacy Corps to support and promote a vision that can have a profound impact on so many.”

Keith Wilkerson

Philadelphia, PA
Senior Program Manager for the Mid-Atlantic Region, A Better Chance

“The work of the Student Diplomacy is vital because the world is shrinking and students need to be global citizens. Gathering diverse youth from around the world and placing them in safe immersion experiences that will deepen their cultural and foreign language learning and broaden their horizons by giving them access to experiences that they might not otherwise have is a most noble mission. And when students return from their travels, they are more confident and better equipped for leadership as they draw on their greater sense of their place in today’s world.

International education has changed my own life. My travels throughout Europe during my high school years were the first time that I truly saw myself as a leader. From helping our group get home in a taxi in Spain to ordering lunch for my peers in France, I had the opportunity to embrace the relevance of what I was learning in French and Spanish classes and to appreciate the vast array of cultures scattered across the European landscape. I came home from my first trip forever changed and with a deep desire to see more of the world and whenever I have to chance, I encourage students to pursue adventures of their own.

Our organization, A Better Chance, proudly nominates participants to the Student Diplomacy Corps as one of its founding partners.”

Clifford Emmanuel

New Haven, CT
MBA Candidate, Yale School of Management
Former Consultant, The Bridgespan Group

“There was a time when international experience was a ‘nice to have’ for business and social sector leaders. That time is over. The ability to think and learn across borders has become a prerequisite for those who want to impact the world’s leading corporations and nonprofit organizations.

Besides providing tangible language and cross-cultural skills, living abroad helped me develop personal resourcefulness and confidence that have accelerated my education and career. After trekking across Southern China by bike, I had the feeling I could do just about anything.

I am currently using my experience leading cross-cultural trips and background in management consulting as a strategic advisor to the Corps.”

Ed Gaffney

Nashville, TN
Senior Lecturer, Department of Classical Studies, Vanderbilt University

“As the child of a career Air Force officer, I had the good fortune to spend my 6th, 7th, and 8th grade years in Japan, and as an undergraduate, I studied in Italy for a semester. These two experiences had a lasting impact on my view of the world. When I began teaching nearly forty years ago, I did everything I could to help my students find similar ways to learn about the larger world beyond their hometown and their daily routine at school. For years, this meant leading spring-break and summer trips abroad with students, but more recently, thanks to a program my school established about fifteen years ago, our students have been able to go on established exchanges with similar schools around the globe and through a grant program that has made it possible for many to spend up to five weeks in the summer in home-stay and exploratory programs abroad, from Europe, to China, to South America.

The impact of such travel experiences has been enormous. By putting themselves in new situations, using foreign languages, and living with people from other countries, these students’ lives have been transformed and have made them much more understanding of the larger world around them. These programs have allowed students to develop self-confidence and maturity much earlier and more naturally than would otherwise have been the case. If education is, as I believe it is, the main way in which we develop empathy, sympathy, and understanding of our own place in the world, the opportunity to see the world through new eyes and new experiences is an invaluable tool in completing the process.”

Adrienne Keller

Atlanta, GA
Ph.d Candidate, Environmental Sciences

“Exploring a new culture and landscape is an opportunity to discover a new lens through which to understand our world. As I have journeyed abroad as both a student and educator, the unpredictable and unexpected moments have most greatly shaped my own lens. An evening drinking bush tea under the starry African sky with my host mother, learning a traditional soup recipe from a vendor at the local Ecuadorian market, being smothered with hugs and tears after teaching an English lesson in the Moroccan Middle Atlas mountains — in each of these moments, I saw the common fears and dreams we share as citizens across the globe and found the confidence within myself to play an active role in building a more just and tolerant world. The Student Diplomacy Corps provides invaluable opportunities to students to develop their own informed lens of the world, fostering empathy, curiosity and compassion across our communities and borders.”

Mike O’Leary

New York, NY
Director of Leadership Development Projects: Prep for Prep

“Helping to activate a student’s awareness of his or her potential is my most challenging task. Having partnered closely with the founding directors of the Student Diplomacy Corps for many years, I can attest to the long-term outcomes of their place-based program design. Understanding one’s self in relation to the world around them helps each participant to create a personal roadmap for their success that often includes how to affect the greater good. This is the change I’d like to see in the world and why the work of Student Diplomacy Corps is critical at this time in our society and beneficial to our young people in addition to the schools and organizations to which they will return and share their experiences.”