If anyone out there thinks that United World College is just some isolated ivory castle in Montezuma, with no connection to the real world we know as Las Vegas, think again. The relationship between this internationally connected college and our town is greater than you might think.
For the uninitiated, United World College-USA was founded in 1982 in Montezuma by Armand Hammer to encourage the peaceful interactions of youth from around the world. There are 10 other such colleges around the world, all offering international baccalaureate diplomas, but the school in Montezuma is the only one in the United States. It has 200 students ages 16-19 each year — with about 150 of them from 80 or more foreign countries, and another 50 students from here in the U.S.
Last week, United World College held a “community partner appreciation dinner” to celebrate and strengthen the ongoing relationship between the school and Las Vegas. After the dinner, the group met to recognize students’ community service in our community.
It was an impressive display, made all the more poignant by the words and contributions of Las Vegas citizens who have been working with these students in such community service programs as the Community Soup Kitchen, Samaritan House and its cold weather shelter last winter, and the Literacy Council.
A list, distributed at last week’s dinner, illustrates the breadth and depth of the UWC student involvement in community service. It included 28 different programs, activities, organizations and clubs that they’ve participated in, or initiated, during the 2008-09 school year. Their work has been in our schools, at our hospital, in the nearby forests, in recreational activities, with horses and our water supply, and much, much more.
One example of their work for the greater good was highlight by Las Vegas resident Carol Durham, who works with the Community Soup Kitchen. A group of volunteers provide a free meal for all-comers at noon every Thursday in First United Methodist Church, serving hundreds of people a week. Durham said she recognized a need to do more than the once-a-week lunch, and began to search for help in doing more. It wasn’t until UWC students stepped up that she was able to find the help needed to start a Tuesday afternoon dinner. Without them, Durham said, it wouldn’t have happened.
Much of this community service from UWC can be credited to Lisa Darling, who was named the school’s president in March 2005. UWC has always had a presence and a relationship with the larger community, but Darling gave it a renewed emphasis. Three years ago, Sharon Seto was hired as dean of co-curricular programs, a job that includes the task of helping to create and sustain community service opportunities for the students. Now, UWC invest hundreds of hours of community service; it’s part of the curriculum at this impressive college.
On May 23, United World College will hold this year’s graduation ceremony. It’s a great time to see future world leaders cross the stage in a celebration of humanity and peace. And for those of us who work in and love Las Vegas, it’s also a moment to reflect on those wonderful souls, from all over the world, who passed our way.