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Local girls to head to Sri Lanka with Gage Foundation director

— Leah Miller and Caroline Charles will travel to Sri Lanka with Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation Director Sally Roesch Wagner Dec. 1-8 as part of a “Girl Ambassadors for Human Rights” program.

Through a grant made possible in part by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums, the visit is part of a year-long Museums Connect initiative which will bring together 50 teenage girls from Villa Grimaldi museum (Chile), the Institute of Social Development (Sri Lanka) and the Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, to explore and share their experiences and ideas through facilitated dialogue, social media technology and international travel. The participating museums are all members of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, which partnered in the grant.

Leah Miller is a junior at Manlius Pebble Hill, where she made high honors and effort honors. She sings in the chorus, plays on the volleyball team and is on the staff of the Windmill, the school literary magazine. Leah is a junior docent for the Gage Center. She also volunteers summers at Crouse Hospital, and takes part in Mentors on Violence Prevention and the Community-Wide Dialogue on Racism.

Caroline Charles sings in the choral group InAchord and participates in the musicals at Jamesville Dewitt High School, where she is a junior. President of the Syracuse Teen Chapter of Jack and Jill, she also plays violin in the Syracuse Youth Orchestra. A member of the Dance Theatre of Syracuse's Ensemble, Caroline has been dancing for 14 years.

Two girl ambassadors will travel with Gage Foundation personnel to Chile in March, and two representatives from the museums in Chile and Sri Lanka will visit the Gage Center in May.

Under the mentorship of community leaders, the girls will use the museums’ exhibits at each site as a launch pad to explore local women’s history and roles in social change, questions of identity, gender-based discrimination, and definitions of what it means to be a free woman. They will share what they’ve learned through public presentations and dialogue, both virtual through Skype and social media and in-person, to identify common goals and tactics that transcend differing cultural expectations and desires.

“Cultural exchanges are an incredible way to show the world America’s unique creativity and spirit,” Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock said in a news release. “That’s why the United States supports programs like Museums Connect — to foster the people-to-people connections that strengthen a museum’s presence in its community, and the community’s presence in the world.”

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