Students from Ukraine embark on leadership program in Minnesota

From the moment they touched down at MSP International, this group of Ukrainian students could immediately see and feel what "Minnesota Nice" is all about. 

However, back home, things are anything but nice. 

"We hear the sirens, we hear the alarms, we hear the explosions. Literally every day, we have to deal with that," said Ehor, who is one of 30 students embarking on a 5-week-long program called YouLEAD, which stands for Youth Leadership Engagement and Development.

It gives Ukrainian teenagers the opportunity to participate in development activities across the U.S. while growing as both individuals and leaders. While they're here, they will stay with different host families. Ron Engh is one of them.

"I'm delighted to give them this opportunity to be here...a lot of these youth have moved from the regions where they were living in different regions from their original hometown," said Engh.

The idea for YouLEAD was launched by Irina Fursman, who moved from Ukraine to Minnesota more than 20 years ago.

"They will have the opportunity to share their voice, to influence decisions at the local level, at an organizational level no matter what they decide to do," said Fursman.

These teens will have a packed schedule, visiting everywhere from local businesses, governments, police departments, and artists.

Exposure to new ideas is at the very core of this program and Fursman says her ultimate goal is that the group takes the lessons learned here back home to inspire lasting change. 

"This will show them a different way, a different way of being, how to live in a democratic society, how to transform and change systems that have been entrenched," said Fursman. 

To learn more about the program and to donate, click here.