Twenty-five college students from across all four time zones of the United States are gathering in downtown Chicago from January 14 to 15 for the first-ever ISRAEL21c Digital Ambassadors Retreat.

“Telling Israel’s Story” is the title of the two-day training and hackathon taking place in the headquarters of the iCenter for Israel Education.

ISRAEL21c’s Digital Ambassadors are 18- to 25-year-old students who choose ISRAEL21c content to share across social-media channels as a way of bringing straight-from-the-source news about Israeli innovation to their peer groups. This academic year, there are about 30 Digital Ambassadors on 24 American college campuses.

But until now, they’ve never met one another in person.

“This event has been a dream of the program since its initial cohort in 2014, and we are thrilled to finally bring our Digital Ambassadors together in the same physical space,” says Ari Feinstein, the Chicago-based outreach and engagement coordinator for the Digital Ambassadors Program.

“It is one thing to meet weekly on our video conference calls, but it is another thing altogether to meet in person and connect and learn together in the same room.”

The young adults represent Drexel University, Chapman University, University of Oregon, San Jose State, University of Southern California, Moorpark College, Richard Stockton University, Chapman University, College of Staten Island, UC Berkeley, Towson University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Florida, Wayne State University, UCLA, Binghamton University, Arizona State University, University of Wisconsin, Marquette University, American University, University of Maryland and California State University, Northridge.

ISRAEL21c Editor and Israel Director Nicky Blackburn and Director of Digital Engagement Nathan Miller are traveling to Chicago from Israel and California, respectively, to lead sessions at the retreat. The students also will have sessions with ISRAEL21c Organizational Consultant Pearl Kane.

Feinstein noted that nearly all the current Digital Ambassadors are making the trip to Chicago, using two days of their intersession break. “This speaks volumes to the importance of in-person training, and the interest our students have in connecting with one another,” he said.

“My goals for the event are that our Digital Ambassadors grow their skills in digital marketing and outreach, and that their connections and understandings about Israel are deepened. Hopefully they make some new friends as well!”