Project: Change turns U.S. teens into global citizens and changemakers

Turning inspiration into action

Portrait of a young changemaker

At 14 years-old, Sam Harshbarger wanted to address a global challenge: the disappearance of indigenous cultures. The New Jersey 8th grader had been concerned about this issue for some time, but like many of his peers he wondered how someone his age could make an impact. He found his answer in AFS Project: Change, a contest that gives U.S. 8th – 12th grade students the chance to put their visions for change into action.

At the urging of his teacher, Sam entered the Project: Change contest by submitting an idea for a volunteer project to document and preserve indigenous cultures in Russia. His thoughtful proposal and demonstrated passion impressed judges, winning Sam the Grand Prize: a full scholarship to lead a group of nine additional winners on a custom-designed AFS Global Prep program, where together they would bring his idea to life.

Sam H
A key element to any project is passion [...]
The topic you choose to address needs to be close to your heart. - Sam H.

The group stayed with families in an Udmurt village in Russia, where they immersed themselves in the culture and conducted first-person interviews. They then published their findings, helping to share and preserve Udmurt traditions.

After this eye-opening experience, Sam has continued studying Russian language and culture. He’s now a committed changemaker, with the goal of giving visibility to more endangered cultures worldwide.

Sam is one of many young people who is dedicated to the belief that they can bring about positive change. AFS is dedicated to making that change possible.

About AFS Project: Change

AFS Project: Change is an annual changemaking contest and curriculum for U.S. 8th – 12th grade students. In classrooms or at home, participants are challenged to learn about key global issues and then submit a volunteer project idea that could have a meaningful impact in an affected country. Winners receive a full scholarship to bring their idea to life on a customized 10-15 day program abroad with AFS.

Since its launch in 2014, AFS Project: Change has inspired thousands of teens to analyze the issues that impact our world and develop innovative, volunteer-based solutions. With accompanying lesson plans, educators can seamlessly bring Project: Change into their classrooms to facilitate global learning, foster 21st century skills, and help students realize their potential for impact.

Project: Change - Impact Infographic

Volunteer projects have taken place in Russia, India, Colombia and Guatemala

Preserving and documenting cultural heritage in Russia

Project inspired by Sam H. of Cranbury, NJ.

Educating youth about hunger and nutrition in India

Project inspired by Sai S. of Virginia Beach, VA.

Empowering children through story-telling in Colombia

Project inspired by Katie E. of Milwaukee, WI.*

Leading sustainability workshops in Guatemala

Project inspired by Erin S. from Madison, WI.

* This program has been expanded and now takes place with Syrian refugee children living in Hungarian camps.

Contact us

Educators interested in accessing the AFS Project: Change curriculum, developed in collaboration with Scholastic, Inc., can visit our Educators page. If you are interested in supporting AFS Project: Change, find out how you can make an impact.

I thought the Project Change entries would be a great introduction to research. I had both of my 8th grade classes complete the entries and submit during class. They really got into the projects, and they were excited!
- Carly M., English teacher from Louisiana