Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Euro Challenge 2015! How to Sustain the Social Systems in the Eurozone: A Look To France for Answers

by Letitia Zwickert

It is with great pride that I can say our Naperville Central High School team just won the Midwest Regional Euro Challenge Competition. I am extremely proud of my all-female team of Sasha Fenton, Meghan Howard, Hanna Meyer, Naina Prasad, and Nicole Simos; all students from my International Relations class, an honors course at NCHS. They met after school, and on weekends, since January to first learn more about the Eurozone, and then about the euro itself. Their task was to research a significant challenge facing the Euro area and find a member state to serve as the perfect example—they found a winning one! The challenge they chose is the social systems of the Eurozone, and their case is France. The social systems in the Eurozone, as currently structured, are very difficult to sustain given the economic environment and desire for future growth. As sophomores in high school, never haven taken an Economics course, my team needed to explain this challenge in the context of the current economic worries of slow growth, high unemployment and deflationary concerns. Intertwined with these issues, they highlighted the political and social realities that exist in the Eurozone and in France.  Additionally, their choice of focusing on the welfare system in France was a large undertaking, as France not only has the largest social welfare system in the Eurozone and the EU, but also in the world.  They had a lot to learn, and then, in turn, transform into a unique presentation! There was incredible team effort, individual growth, and professionalism throughout their weeks of work. Our team also had a notable advantage, with two very devoted upperclassmen, Kevin Angel and Megan Angel, who shared their economic knowledge, work ethic, and moral support during the preparatory process—two excellent upperclassmen mentors.

But this experience was only made possible by the generous outreach of the EU Center at the University of Illinois. Because of their work with high school teachers and students, and the sharing of outstanding opportunities, such as this one, my students gained knowledge about the EU that far outweighs that of typical high school content. The invaluable experience through the team work required to prepare for the Euro Challenge and the competition itself, judged by EU specialists, will serve them a lifetime. All of this gives them an enormous advantage as they look towards college and career choices. And, yet another incredible adventure awaits us, as we are now headed to the Euro Challenge Finals in New York City! Thank you so much EU Center!

Letitia Zwickert is the International Relations, World Cultures, and Minorities teacher at Naperville Central High School.

For more information about Euro Challenge, please visit the European Union Center's website.


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