For more than a decade, the International Ambassadors Program (IAP), as part of the William O. Lockridge Community Foundation (WOLCF), has been giving students in Wards 7 and 8 an opportunity to develop an understanding and appreciation of international travel and culture.

The Southeast based nonprofit WOLCF was established by Wanda D. Lockridge to honor her late husband and perpetuate his legacy of striving for educational equality for families and students in the District of Columbia’s Wards 7 and 8.  The organization offers educational programs, scholarships, college transportation assistance and international travel opportunities. Further, the community nonprofit is passionate about eliminating barriers to educational success and illuminating the importance of education today.

Shortly after its conception in the Spring 2011, the IAP was borne. The idea is to bridge the gap of learning by providing first-hand experiences that foster critical thinking, global awareness, and peace.

To date, thirteen Lockridge Ambassadors have had the opportunity to travel to three African countries – Cameroon, Ghana, and Benin. During their visits, they shared stories with fellow students on the continent, visited villages, met with local government and business leaders, as well as participated in a host of cultural and social activities. 

In 2024, the WOLCF will be taking new class of Lockridge Ambassadors to Sierra Leone.

U.S. Foreign Service Initiative

The Biden Administration’s commitment to increase the number of African Americans in the U.S. Foreign Service provides the WOLCF, under the umbrella of its already successful IAP, with an opportunity to be a part of this effort. More specifically, the Foundation’s U.S. Foreign Service Initiative (USFSI): 

  • Encourages high school students residing in Wards 7 and 8 to explore employment opportunities in the field of international relations.
  • Identifies students for travel to Africa. 
  • Ignites a desire for students to learn a foreign language.
  • Establish early networking and mentorship opportunities for students. 
  • Allows students to receive community service hours.
  • Helps to create internships where feasible with government or businesses involved in foreign affairs.

In January 2022, the USFSI was formally launched with eleven students representing Ballou Senior High, KIPP DC Legacy College Prep, Eastern Senior High School, McKinney Tech High School, Basis DC School, and the DC International School.

One student who participated in the sessions in 2022 was Eli Williams, currently a sophomore at the DC International School. 

“I am appreciative to the Lockridge Foundation for exposing me to various overseas career opportunities offered by the USFSI,” Eli said. “I also learned a great deal and really looked forward to each of the monthly programs.” 

The Next Six Months

Over the next six months, the students will attend monthly sessions for 2-3 hours throughout the District of Columbia and an overnight visit to South Carolina. These interactive sessions will focus on career opportunities in the following categories: International Trade, Africa Fashion, Media Exposure/Language/Culture, Tourism, Diplomacy, and Land Resources/Mining/Agriculture. Each session will end with time allotted for questions-and-answers by students and speakers.

“I am proud that the WOLCF is exposing our students to professional and nonprofessional employment opportunities not only in Africa, but around the world. Our bright young high school students can only learn about career options that they are exposed to. Who knows, there could be a future U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, contractor with the U.S. Department of State, international trade negotiator, or tourism entrepreneur among us in Wards 7 or 8,” said Lockridge, the nonprofit’s founder and chairwoman, in reflecting on the USFSI.

The WOLCF is currently accepting applications for the six-month 2023 USFSI. The Initiative will commence on Saturday, January 28, at noon. For more information, please contact Project Coordinator Austin R. Cooper, Jr., at austinrcooper@hotmail.com).

Featured image by: Austin R. Cooper, Jr.


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