Son of Immigrants Pursues American Dream as well as Education Equity

By Dustin Liu, 2019 Luce 24 Under 24 Award Recipient

New York, N.Y. My interest in young global leadership is intricately connected with my passion for education equity. Education has always played an important part of my personal narrative. As the son of two immigrant parents who came to America in pursuit of their education, a college education held a central role in our family’s American Dream. It was through education that my family was able to find opportunity, and it is the very prospect of how higher education can shape the livelihood of students that drives my passion for the field.

Dustin Liu

From a young age, I became aware of the opportunity gap in education globally. My second-grade teacher, Ms. Bittman, asked our class, “what should we do if the cure for cancer was in the mind of a girl, halfway around the world, who didn’t have access to education?” It was in that moment that I began to unravel the interconnected nature of our world – and began to unpack the importance of young global citizenship.

It was this very question posed by Ms. Bittman that shaped my foundational experiences. I pursued opportunities outside of the classroom to hone these thoughts. At 14, I began a tenure as a Student Activist Coordinator for Amnesty International to better understand how LGBTQ+ communities of color were marginalized by systemic structures. I led workshops and traveled the Northeast connecting with youth leaders to hear their stories and actions.

Cornell - 600

By 17, I worked on 4 local campaigns as a field intern and when I was 18, I joined a national campaign team as a digital organizer, using social media to mobilize and motivate youths. A deeper interest in how we connect as humans began to emerge from these experiences, particularly across difference. An affirmation of my ability to hone my own voice and develop my model of change influenced how I saw my role in closing the gaps of inequities throughout systems in our society. Youths have the ability to make a difference if we invest in their voices and create the conditions for them to lead.

It was in the university setting that I had the chance to engage internationally and understand first-hand the importance of having the tools to engage across difference in an ever more interconnected world. The ability to create and bridge communities through technology and intentional connections allow us to better empathize with others.

At this critical point of innovation and the potential for connection, the opportunity for youths to develop a global mindset undoubtedly helps them lead more self-actualized careers and lives. The understanding that we are part of a world larger than our own community is critical – it helps confront our misconceived notions and biases that we learn through socialization.

Class - 600

It is within these experiences that youth global leadership can create change in our world, making globally sustainable decisions, building relationships across borders, and ultimately contributing to a more equitable and unified society.

There are certain key moments that allow me to understand the importance of youth global leadership. The first is my experience with the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement working to integrate technology into the curriculum at the Viveka Tribal Center for Learning. It was here that I had the first hand opportunity to live and learn alongside the village of Hosahalli, a product of political gentrification of those native to their land. One of my favorite moments was having the chance to learn about the student’s upbringing while sharing my own.

With the help of Google Maps, I traced my childhood. I will never forget one student sharing with me that it was in that moment that he felt as though he was a citizen of the world, and not just of his village. Taking this experience back to my own local community inspired me to start the Schools Without Borders initiative in my public-school system.

The purpose of the Schools Without Borders is to build global citizens within our high school classroom. Our mission is to foster a change in the way American students saw themselves as compared with others from vastly different experiences and find a common link that helps engender real growth and understanding. As the world becomes more globalized and interconnected, we need to prepare students to enter into a more diverse workplace.

The program involved students taking on a project to build relationships with the tribal village in Southern India. They took on a community engagement project to create a “Day in the Life Video” that the tribal school would be utilizing in their curriculum. The result was an emphasis in ethical engagement and building knowledge about the context of the community in terms of human capital development and social structures that all intertwine to create a narrative different than our home community.

In university, I had a chance to plan and execute an international service-learning trip in Taiwan where I brought 7 students to rural Taiwan to study how a humanitarian organization creates impact on a global scale. The experience allowed me to fully embrace the impact that simply an understanding of global interactions can have upon students.

Following the trip, each and every student who participated shared in reflections that they feel compelled to pursue a career that allows them to impact communities outside of the USA. Youth global leadership is critical to ensure the pathway for future leaders who have the capacity, skills and experiences to make critical decisions as they become business leaders, politicians, and influencers within their communities.

Youth global leadership is critical due to the nature of the times that we live. The problems and inequities that we see in our society requires us to attack preconceived notions, challenges biases and furthermore build empathetic leaders to lead us to a more just and connected world.

Dustin Liu
Dustin developed his passion for education equity from his root of his two immigrant parents who came to America in pursuit of their education. From his young age, he became aware of the opportunity gap in education globally which inspired by his second-grade teacher, this is what drove him to his journey to begin to unpack the importance of youth global citizenship. 


Ticket Reservations
Ticket(s) in advance are available at $48 each, tax-deductible and may be paid online via: (or TEXT “Luce24” to 91999). Checks payable to The J. Luce Foundation may be sent to 540 Main St. #418, New York, N.Y. 10044. If you are unable to attend, please consider donating a ticket to sponsor one of our Young Global Leaders.

About The J. Luce Foundation
The Mission of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation, Inc. ( is to support young global leadership impacting positive social change, particularly in the fields of the Arts, Education and Orphan Care. Related charities include Orphans International Worldwide (OIW) and The New York Global Leaders Lions Club, both founded by Jim Luce, born July 24, 1959. 

 July 24th, J. Luce Foundations 20th Annual Summer Soirée (7/19)
‘Luce 24 Under 24’ Summer Soirée Set for July 24 at the China Institute (6/19)
J. Luce Foundation Announces First ‘Luce 24 Under 24’ Awards (5/19)
J. Luce Leadership Team Lauded by Forbes, Gates, Ford Foundation (9/18)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

Comments are closed.