Cary Academy students have many opportunities to develop leadership skills, in academic and authentic settings. In addition to traditional roles as activity and athletic leaders, our students have created and led courses for Discovery Term and developed and nurtured many community service and outreach projects.

In the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to travel with a group of students to Mumbai, India to participate in the Global Social Entrepreneurs Summit (GSES) hosted by the American School of Bombay. Over four days, our students joined others from India, Turkey, South Africa, Jordan, and Bangladesh to explore and tackle global problems from their unique perspectives.


This is not the first time a group of CA students have participated in a project-based, global leadership conference. For several years, CA students have attended in the Student Global Leadership Institute, hosted by Punahou school in Hawaii. During two weeks over the summer, SGLI students work with peers from their own schools to develop projects that they can then implement when they return to their home campuses. Students have regularly returned from this experienced inspired and with a new appreciation for their peers from around the world.

The Mumbai conference partnered students from other schools and had them work through a design thinking protocol to solve social problems. Students had their thinking sparked the first morning, when they toured the Dharavi slum and learned about the lives of the poorest in Mumbai and the thriving social and economic subsystems of the slums. From there, they broke into groups and worked with outside experts on how convert interest to impact. In the evenings, our students had home stays with students from ASB, learning more about how their peers lived within one of the largest cities in the world.

“GSES was an incredible experience,” said one CA student. “I loved everything about it, from the homestays to the conference to the guest speakers. I made close connections to peers from around the world that I plan on keeping in contact with for the rest of my high school experience. The instruction was effective, and our group activities promoted teamwork, innovation, and critical thinking. Overall, GSES was a fantastic leadership opportunity that I won’t forget.”

Within the constraints of time, students developed some very interesting concepts and then presented them to their peers, outside judges, and the more than 300 teachers that were at the school for a concurrent educational conference. Examples of their projects included:

  • using social media to connect rural girls in India with role models,
  • developing the prototype of a low-cost DIY water-filtration system,
  • creating a social network of home-stay opportunities to extend existing social tourism networks within Dharavi,
  • and developing a process and app to log and map outbreaks of malaria and dengue, thus driving economic activity away from trouble areas and incentivizing governmental agencies to act on infrastructure problems. 

In the end, two of our teams were presented with the “Most Promising Social Enterprise” award.

After the conference, we extended our time in India to visit Avasara Academy, a new leadership school serving poor girls of promise in the city of Pune. The school was a natural connection with the GSES, as it embodied the “ideas to impact” ethos of the conference.  At the campus, our students heard about the economic landscape of India and particular issues facing women. They also were treated to a mini-workshop hosted by four of the seventh- and eighth-grade girls that currently attend the school. Prior to the Avasara visit, the group had a chance to tour a local municipal school and meet with its principal.

“The entire experience of visiting Dharavi to hearing other student’s ideas to seeing the recently developed school of Avasara was incredibly inspiring,” said another CA student. “At the conference we had the opportunity to hear about various social enterprises that worked to make real changes in the world, and the leadership school in Pune was another example of this.”

Students were invited to the GSES based on their leadership roles within the CA S.T.E.P. club, which has developed and hosted educational conferences on campus the past two years, or their enrollment in the CA Global Leadership course, which is a blended course that involves students in Argentina, Brazil, India, South Carolina, and Florida. The American School of Bombay is a participating school in the Global Leadership project.

Based on the positive experiences from this first group of students, we expect that Cary Academy will continue with the GSES and look for new ways for students to connect with peers around the world.