Blue Ridge Community and Technical College

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Blue Ridge CTC PARTNERS WITH IREX on Grant from the Stevens Initiative to Connect Students in the US, Middle East, and North Africa Through Virtual Exchange

Primary Contact:

Jennifer Barrett-Smith
304.260.4380 ext. 2111

 Blue Ridge Community and Technical College PARTNERS WITH IREX on Grant from the Stevens Initiative to Connect Students in the US, Middle East, and North Africa Through Virtual Exchange

 Grantees will create opportunities for U.S. and international students to build global competencies and career readiness skills through virtual exchange.

Martinsburg, WV, March 1, 2021 – Blue Ridge Community and Technical College joins a consortium of post-secondary education leaders to reach 3,000 with career readiness skills through a business competition across the U.S., Jordan, and Iraq.

Blue Ridge CTC is one of 71 academic institutions selected to participate spring 2021 in the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge, a program supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, administered by the Aspen Institute, and implemented by IREX.

The Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge (GSSC) connects students in the United States, Jordan, and Iraq to virtually collaborate on a sustainable solution to a contemporary business challenge. Bi-national teams engage during a six to ten-weeks period to create a sustainable business solution to a challenge identified by an industry partners across business sectors. Throughout the challenge participants will develop workforce skills, network with industry professionals, and participate in a virtual career fair. At the conclusion of GSSC, bi-national teams will submit a video pitch and business plan for their prototype to the Virtual Global Business Expo where the top three finalists will be selected by an advisory committee comprised of industry professionals and educators.

“The opportunity with IREX is huge for our students. They are learning about another culture and learning about what leadership skills already existed or new ones.  We have some great students taking part in this opportunity from different parts of Blue Ridge.  The students have been working with the other team and it has been great to watch.” Todd Cimino-Johnson, Program Coordinator for Business and Economics at Blue Ridge CTC.

Xavier Hersom, Blue Ridge CTC Student Body President, said “Participating in the IREX Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge has connected me with students across the globe. I particularly enjoyed learning about the Jordan students’ culture. I look forward to seeing what our team comes up with for our final project, and how our idea can help benefit humanity”

Over the course of four cohorts, the program will reach 3,000 community college students in the US and college and university students in Jordan and Iraq. Programs will begin September 2019 and extend through Spring 2021. Participants will join the Stevens Initiative community of nearly 40,000 students in 15 MENA countries and the Palestinian Territories, and in 44 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC.

Created in 2015 by the Stevens family as a living legacy to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Stevens Initiative is a public-private partnership that is building global competencies and 21st century skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa. Through virtual exchange, the Initiative connects youth through technology to collaborate and learn together, giving them access to a substantive international exchange.

Blue Ridge Community and Technical College offers more than 60 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as workforce development training.  Blue Ridge Community and Technical College is conveniently located on Route 45 West past the Commons Center, at 13650 Apple Harvest Drive. For more information on Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, please call 304-260-4380 or visit our website at

IREX is a global development and education nonprofit dedicated to building a more just, prosperous, and inclusive world. With an annual portfolio of $80 million and 400 staff worldwide, we work with partners in more than 100 countries in four areas essential to progress: cultivating leaders, empowering youth, strengthening institutions, and increasing access to quality education and information.

The Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge is funded by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and is administered by the Aspen Institute. It is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

More Information

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, professional and private exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs. These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States, support U.S. international leadership, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us. Visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organizaion based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, D.C.; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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