Shantel Bartolome is an Inspired Leader and senior at Cherry Creek High School who is interested in foreign affairs and United States foreign policy.
Recently, Inspire Colorado presented me and my friends an amazing opportunity to engage in an exchange of cultures and ideas pertaining to elections and campaigns in the United States with international visitors -- high ranking government officials from the Middle East and North Africa. In the allotted hour and a half, everybody sat in a circle, eager to ask and answer questions about the political and electoral systems in our respective countries and organizations. We first discussed the benefits of Inspire Colorado and voter participation, as the group was very interested in hearing about youth involvement in politics in the United States, but gradually focused more and more about the Middle East and North Africa, regions I've never heard spoken about so personally and candidly.
My friends and I loved hearing from the officials about their own opinions of U.S.-Middle Eastern relations because it was more authentic than learning solely through American media. As the conversation ended, I shook hands, received business cards, and took pictures, sorority squatting right next to ambassadors, human rights officials, and members of Parliament.
Ultimately, my friends and I feel immensely lucky to be a part of this experience. This meeting is something we will never forget, as engaging so intimately with these different countries, from Tunisia to Palestine, was enlightening, honest, and thought-provoking. It gave me a brand new insight into our political institutions in the U.S. and how they compare to countries abroad. It is something I will take with me as a continue to register my peers with Inspire Colorado.