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. CIED continues this work as a partner in the Youth Ambassadors consortium.
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 Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. CIED had administered this initiative in 2010 – 2017.
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.”
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.