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ASU Prep Digital students tackle global issues with South African peers

Patrick Daily with two dogs

Patrick Daily is one of six ASU Prep Digital students joining nine students from the Valenture Institute in South Africa in brainstorming solutions to real-world issues.

November 22, 2021

Global leaders could learn a thing or two from a handful of ASU Prep Digital students and their peers half a world away.

Taking on issues ranging from human migration, plastic pollution and climate change to deforestation, clean water and access to technology, a group of eighth grade Arizona students from ASU Prep Digital, an accredited online pre-K–12 school created by Arizona State University, are tackling herculean challenges on a global scale.

Driven by ASU’s pedagogy of discovery-based learning, students participating in the Global Leadership Exchange pilot program have partnered with peers in South Africa to develop real-world solutions to some of the most pressing social and geopolitical challenges of our time.

Led by teacher Shawn Carey, who has spent the bulk of his career teaching abroad, this next generation of problem solvers is tackling one problem at a time with counterparts half a world away.

This year, six ASU Prep Digital students and nine students from the Valenture Institute, an online high school in South Africa with a mission to create aspirational learning opportunities for students, are engaged in cross-cultural collaboration to examine these issues through a global lens and ultimately find solutions.

Students with a passion for problem solving are challenged to look at weighty issues through a global lens to gain greater perspective and more holistic context. While studying migration, ASU Prep Digital students put the topic into greater context for their South African peers by sharing information about the migration crisis at the southern border of the United States. At the same time, Valenture students brought to life the challenge migration from Zimbabwe is having on South Africa.

Ava Martinez in a maroon and gold graduation cap

Ava Villa Martinez

“Although world challenges are shared, because we live in different parts of the world, it can be difficult to understand differing views and perspectives,” said Ava Villa Martinez, an ASU Prep Digital student who has her eye set on a career in government or education. 

“Kids our age often don’t have the opportunity to have a seat at the table and weigh in on such important issues. But being part of this program gives us an eye-opening chance to learn different perspectives and work together to come up with solutions and ideas that could work.”

Working in two-week time frames, students collaborate in small groups to immerse themselves into a problem within a global cross-cultural context, explore ways to tackle the challenge, define the audience they need to mobilize, imagine creative solutions and finally convey solutions, thoughts and ideas. The latter spans many mediums, from developing an invention, delivering a presentation, creating a public-service announcement, producing a podcast and more.

“The Global Leadership exchange has made my mind come alive and helped find solutions to the problems around us,” said Patrick Daily, an ASU Prep Digital student. “When you take a deeper look into an issue, your eyes are opened at how some policies and restrictions can hold back progress.”

Having already explored issues of human migration and plastics contamination, Ava, Patrick and their peers will tackle climate change next. Seeing the creative solutions that have come out of the first two topics, Carey is eager to see what solutions emerge from this enterprising group of young people as they approach problems in increasingly novel ways.

To learn more about the ASU Prep Digital Global Leadership Exchange program, speak with program lead Shawn Carey and ASU Prep Digital students Ava and Patrick, or to get a sneak peek at how students nearly 10,000 miles away are collaborating, please contact Angela Menninger at or 602-373-8212.

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