Central American Youth Ambassadors
The Central American Youth Ambassador (CAYA) Program was a U.S. Department of State youth exchange designed to strengthen the leadership skills of young people from Central America and the United States. This multi-national exchange also built bonds of friendship and understanding between people of Central America, the Dominican Republic, and people of the United States.
The CIED-designed CAYA program offered talented youth (15-18) from Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama the opportunity travel to the United States to develop their leadership skills and expand their knowledge of U.S. culture and society. A similar exchange to Central America was offered to U.S. youth.
During the three-week exchanges, students participated in activities focused on community development, environment, and entrepreneurship. The experience not only enhanced their skills and knowledge but also prepared them for a lifetime of leadership and community service. The program agenda included ample time for face-to-face interaction and dialogue which build strong people-to-people connections between U.S. citizens and Central Americans.
Following the exchange programs, CIED provided support to alumni and seed funding for small community projects.
The Youth Ambassadors Program was sponsored by the U.S Department of State – Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. CIED had administered this initiative in 2010 – 2017.
CIED youth programming activities in Latin America and the Caribbean continue with the Youth Ambassadors Program.
Sara Perez was able to channel her innate leadership capacity, combined with the skills she learned through the CAYA program, to make an impact in the lives of young people back in her native land of El Salvador.
Since returning to her hometown of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, Cindy has continuously worked on spreading the word on reusing and recycling. Through workshops in her community and school, Cindy has been able to teach young adults ways to reuse items and possibly earn a living.
“Tolerance, inter-cultural dialogue and respect for diversity are more essential than ever in a world where peoples are becoming more and more closely interconnected.”
CIED’s first program of 2019 was the Youth Ambassadors Spanish-language group. The 43 participants from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Panama participated in a three-week leadership development exchange in the United States from January 22 to February 9. During their time in the U.S., half the group was hosted by WorldChicago (Chicago, IL) and the other half was hosted by Scott Community College (Bettendorf, IA). The Midwestern study tour provided the groups with the opportunity to meet with American organizations working in the areas of environmental protection and social entrepreneurship.
Brenda, from El Salvador, has managed to make the most of her opportunities to fulfill her desire of becoming a change-maker. Since her CAYA days, Brenda has gone on to make great strides on her path to becoming a global leader and currently works for a prominent nonprofit in her country.
Between December 11-13, the U.S. embassy in Guatemala funded a workshop hosted by the Centro de Formacion La Asuncion on community development and leadership that was attended by forty-four CAYA program alumni.