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Cablegate: Pd Programs Attract Youth Throughout Lebanon

VZCZCXYZ8961
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLB #0335/01 0651344
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051344Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1198
INFO RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BEIRUT 000335

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OEXC SCUL KPAO
SUBJECT: PD PROGRAMS ATTRACT YOUTH THROUGHOUT LEBANON


1. (U) Summary: Youth from throughout Lebanon are
increasingly interested in Public Diplomacy's (PD) student
programs. Results from the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) and
English Access Microscholarship programs indicate that PD's
outreach includes students from all groups of Lebanon's
diverse sectarian and geographic mix, while maintaining a
gender balance. In addition, PD Beirut gauged the opinions of
youth regarding education and emigration during the YES
interview process. Many are committed to gaining skills but
for the sole purpose of leaving the country. End summary.

YES
---

2. (U) The Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program,
administered locally by partner organization AMIDEAST, is
open to 14-16 year old high school students throughout
Lebanon, specifically targeting public school pupils from
outside of the capital. The full scholarship sends
outstanding teenagers to live with American host families and
study at high schools for an academic year. As a result of an
aggressive outreach campaign (including television
interviews, radio commercials, school visits and website
postings) in November 2007 to promote the program,
applications jumped by 42% versus last year's total. The
North (primarily Sunni and Christian) experienced a 33%
increase, the South (Shia and Sunni) 44%, the Bekaa Valley
(Shia) 54% and Mount Lebanon (Druze and Christian) 86%.
Contrary to assumptions, girls represented a majority of
applicants (61%).

3. (SBU) Due to heightened Embassy security measures after an
incident involving an Embassy vehicle, which occurred two
days before the scheduled interviews to select the slate of
43 YES finalists for the 2008-09 program, PD held the four,
day-long interview sessions on the Embassy compound rather
than at AMIDEAST's downtown office, the annual venue.
Initially, PD and AMIDEAST were concerned that the location
might deter the YES candidates' families from attending. On
the contrary, however, 109 students and their parents
participated in the interview sessions. In fact, not a single
student invited for an interview refused the offer because of
the location. To accommodate rural families unfamiliar with
greater Beirut, AMIDEAST arranged for a bus to shuttle
interview participants between downtown parking and the
Embassy.

4. (U) Throughout the three-part interview sessions, PD staff
observed students' and parents' answers. Students were
excited about the opportunities that YES offered. Many
defined their motivation to participate as a chance to show
Americans that Lebanese are not terrorists. Others wanted to
experience life in the United States, the land of freedom,
technology and prosperity, as they described it. Several
teenagers stressed the importance of participating in YES to
gain the skills necessary to work abroad after college. It
was alarming that so many students, as young as 14, echoed
the same sentiment. Given the prolonged political, economic
and security instability in Lebanon, children have become
conditioned to leave the country after watching their
relatives, friends and neighbors search for stable jobs
elsewhere. These comments signal that the brain drain may now
be endemic among Lebanese youth.

5. (SBU) The parents revealed interesting insights as well.
One Shia mother from the South mentioned that someone's
opinion of U.S. policy should not affect how the American
people are judged so she encouraged her son to participate in
YES. Another Shia mother explained her hesitation to come to
the Embassy but was willing to do whatever necessary for the
sake of her daughter's education. In a third case, however,
the mother of one of the highest ranked candidates said that
family members and neighbors had discouraged her from
allowing her daughter to participate. Living in a
Hizballah-dominated neighborhood, she admitted that the
pressure was too much, forcing her to terminate her
daughter's candidacy.

6. (SBU) After compiling the interview results, the 43
selected finalists reflected the sectarian, geographic and
gender diversity of the initial applicant pool. The sectarian
mix mirrored Lebanon's unofficial confessional breakdown:
three-fourths Muslim and the remainder Christian. While
geographic distribution was fair among most regions, the one
salient aberration was the under-representation of finalists
(12% of total) from the North compared with the number of
applicants (19% of total) from the region. The primary
reasons for their underperformance included weakness in
English language skills (the primary languages of instruction
in the region are Arabic or French) and a general lack of
sophistication, both factors inhibiting clear communication
of thoughts and personality during the interviews. As for
gender, female finalists were 47% of the total while
comprising 55% of all candidates invited to interview. In
addition, females comprised only 20% of North finalists
versus 62% of the North's invited candidates. (Note: Embassy
Beirut's PD programs increasingly target the North such as
English Access and Teaching Women English, a post-designed
project. End note.)

Access
------

7. (U) The English Access Microscholarship Program, also
administered by AMIDEAST, teaches English to high school
students extra-curricularly in socio-economically
disadvantaged areas while exposing them to civic education
and American culture. This 2007-08 program includes 18
classrooms throughout the country. In fact, 96% of all
participants, 64% of whom are girls, are from outside Beirut.
The North represents the largest group (36% of Access
students) followed by the South (28%) and the Bekaa (24%).
The classrooms are intentionally placed in areas of greatest
need, supporting Post's objective of focusing on countering
radical behavior among susceptible populations.

8. (SBU) Comment: PD Beirut focuses on attracting program
applicants from hard-to-reach and underserved communities,
especially those outside of the capital. There is an
increasing interest in programs because of PD's robust
recruiting activities and the positive partnership with
AMIDEAST. Program participants often stay in contact with
both PD and AMIDEAST staff members, providing a natural youth
alumni base for Lebanon. Program participants, including
youth sports diplomacy participants, foster an environment
encouraging other to apply for programs. In addition, PD
staff stay in touch through email, phone calls, the Embassy
websites and Facebook with those who were not successful
applicants. Outreach is working in Lebanon because many tools
are used to engender interest in the United States. End
comment.
SISON

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