Central American Youth Ambassadors
The Central American Youth Ambassador (CAYA) Program is 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 builds bonds of friendship and understanding between people of Central America, the Dominican Republic, and people of the United States.
The CIED-designed CAYA program offers 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 is offered to U.S. youth.
During the three-week exchanges, students participate in activities focused on community development, environment, and entrepreneurship. The experience not only enhances their skills and knowledge but also prepares them for a lifetime of leadership and community service. The program agenda includes 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 provides support to alumni and seed funding for small community projects.
The Youth Ambassadors Program is sponsored by the U.S Department of State – Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. CIED has administered this initiative since 2010.
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.
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.
Carlos, a CAYA participant from 2011, is currently close to acquiring his undergraduate degree from John Brown University with a Walton Foundation scholarship. He has been setting a great track record of having impact all the way from El Salvador to here in the U.S.