Cross-Cultural Youth Leadership – The Middle East Leaders in Training (LIT) Program

Ultimate Peace has worked hard to build a comprehensive 3-year Leaders in Training (LIT) Youth Leadership Program. Our vision was to create a groundbreaking developmental program for our older program participants, one that would enhance and enrich their high school years while preparing them to be future leaders and change-makers in Ultimate Peace, their communities, the Middle East, and beyond. The program began in 2011 with its first cohort, in 2012 added a second cohort of young leaders, added its third cohort in 2013, and in 2014 graduated its first class and added a fourth cohort.

The three-year Leaders-in-Training Program now engages 55 teen leaders spread among three cohorts. Each group has a mix of Arabs, Jews, and Palestinians. They work closely together on leadership projects, coach cross-cultural teams, create and lead UP teams in their own communities, and even compete in international tournaments. Many have become the best of friends. Watch a video of young UP leaders in action.

The program is developmental and progressive. Building on the previous year, LITs are offered newer, tougher challenges, and are pushed to test the boundaries of their strengths and abilities. Here is a brief overview of how the three-year design unfolds for our awesome Leaders in Training:


Raz and Ali Guiding CITsThe application process narrows the 60+ applicants to 18-24 new LIT’s. Their work centers on two major goals:

  1. Interpersonally, they focus on getting to know one another as friends and people from very different backgrounds, using the Ultimate Peace framework as a safe and secure context.
  2. The group works together collaboratively all year to create a half-day event at camp that they will design and lead for the entire summer camp community.


The work of this year focuses on these major goals:

  1. Continue to make deeper connections with one another and confront new group challenges through the monthly seminars within the UP framework.
  2. Prepare and raise funds for the USA tour, then travel to the United States to raise awareness of UP, meet hundreds of adults and youth, and compete as a team.


The LIT’s finish up the program with an intensive final year: Their focus is on three main goals:

  1. Continue to break new ground in relationships with one another through the UP framework.
  2. Commit to one of three “LIT internships” at UP. The three leadership options are:
    • Community Coaching – Being trained in coaching a youth team and building/leading a local team throughout the year.
    • Management/Administration/Fundraising – Being trained and supervised by UP staff to learn and assist in key organizational jobs.
    • Educational Instruction – Being an assistant to the Year One CIT staff, working closely with the youth to provide guidance and experienced perspective as an educator and counselor.

The Annual LIT Friendship Tour

Tour PanelEvery year second-year LIT’s travel to the USA for the annual LIT Friendship Tour. They raise money themselves and prepare presentations (TED Talks), group panels, and discussions to facilitate. In the USA, they speak eloquently about their journey in UP to over 1000 youth and adults at middle schools, high schools, synagogues, mosques, community centers, private homes, universities, and the media. They also compete in a major youth Ultimate tournament as a united UP Team – MashUP. They stay with local families in their homes, and visit important US sites. They learn, teach, have fun, and grow as individuals and as a team.

MashUP at Paideia Cup 2014The trip has been to New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, LA, Washington DC, and San Francisco. Visits to all these places have revealed an increasing need – people in the US want more exposure to and interaction with these young leaders from the Middle East, to get to know them as individuals and as a collective multicultural group, to learn about what they go through in their lives and within the UP program, and to develop real connections with them. This contact is invaluable. They report they learn more about the Middle East from these amazing teens than from anything they read or watch on television.

Learn about past tours:

2013 CIT Friendship Tour
2014 CIT Friendship Tour
2015 CIT Friendship Tour
2016 LIT Friendship Tour

Program Approach and Results

The Leaders-in-Training Project is, in many ways, where the vision of UP is most advanced. It is designed to nurture and develop a multi-cultural cohort of young leaders every year that eventually works together to help facilitate UP programs. They also prepare to become community and team leaders back in their communities. Over the course of three years, LIT’s receive training in the areas of pedagogic approach, coaching, public speaking, conflict resolution, behavioral management, collaborative leadership, and program administration. Ongoing support and supervision is provided to ensure regular monitoring, assessment, reflection, and improvement.

CITs PlanningThrough their training and experiences over these past three years, UP has witnessed the LIT’s becoming increasingly capable in terms of working cooperatively as a group and leading youth as individuals. They have deepened their friendships to the point where they visit one another’s homes outside of the program framework when possible, and maintain consistent contact between activities. There is a palpable dynamic of mutual respect and understanding among its growing number of participants, and they refer to themselves “UP family”.

The US LIT Program

Every year, a select group of US teens are chosen from a rigorous application process to become LIT’s at Camp UP. Coming from locations around the USA, they join and team up with the Middle East LITs at camp to provide strong support and emerging leadership for campers, staff, and the whole community.

As a diverse and novel group of role models/athletes for our Middle Eastern campers, they are a highly inspirational and motivating group. What the US LITs gain from the experience is hard to describe because it is so different for everyone. The most common term used is “life-changing”.

The Basic Job Description of a LIT at Camp

  • CITs Lead The Singing At CampLead your Team – Be an important role model for your team’s campers, a leader on your team, and a reliable support your team’s coaches.
    • Play hard, play fair, model spirit at all times
    • Provide guidance and support to campers who need it on and off the field
    • Follow the lead of your coach
  • Team up with other LIT’s – Work together with the LIT Team to create moments and activities that make camp great for all campers.
    • Look for chances to help and support your fellow LIT’s. If you are not sure, ask.
    • When you see a chance to to make good and fun things happen, gather your peers and go for it!
    • Create an evening activity together as a LIT team for the entire camp.
  • Support UP Staff – Do all that you are asked to make camp go smoothly and be as successful as it can be.
    • Jump at the chance to help when any other staff seems to need help or asks for assistance.
    • Find ways to pitch in when others are working hard. Always ask if help is needed.
    • Stop, think, look, listen. Smile!


Spirit on the Field“I am now on teams with Jewish friends. In fact, one of my best friends now is a 17-year old Jewish girl named Raz. She is from a Jewish city, Raanana, near Tel Aviv, and we are very close. I dream of (and we speak of) me being a bridesmaid at her wedding one day.”

– Yasmeen, 17 years old, Tamra, Israel

“Because of my experience at Ultimate Peace my entire outlook on the Middle Eastern conflict has changed. Next semester I am working with a guy who runs a discussion group between Palestinians and Jews and we are going to turn the group into a formal club. The goal of the club is going to be putting on joint programs for fundraising opportunities for all students at Ohio State. Hopefully the money we raise can go to organizations like Ultimate Peace. If it weren’t for Ultimate Peace I never would be as aware as I am for the need for cooperation and peace in the Middle East.

– Jesse Marquisee, 18 years old, Ohio, USA