Youth Ambassadors is a cultural exchange program designed to strengthen the leadership skills of young people from the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States. It builds bonds of friendship and understanding between people of the Americas and is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.
The program aims to develop a cadre of young adults who have a strong sense of civic responsibility, a commitment to community development, an awareness of current & global issues, and strong interpersonal leadership skills. Activities foster relationships among youth from different ethnic, religious, and national groups; with the goal of promoting mutual understanding, respect, and collaboration between the United States and our Western Hemisphere counterparts.
In December of 2017, CIED/Georgetown University joined a consortia led by World Learning and including Amigos de las Americas and SUNY Plattsburg, New York to implement the Youth Ambassadors program across the Americas. CIED/GU manages the inbound exchanges of students from Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela, as well as the outbound exchange of U.S. students to the Dominican Republic.
During the three-week exchanges, youth and adult mentor participants engage in workshops, meetings with community leaders, community service activities, interactive trainings, cultural presentations, visits to high schools, local cultural activities, homestays with host families, civic education programming, and more. Program themes of social entrepreneurship, environmental protection, and community development, enhance skills and knowledge and prepare participants for a lifetime of leadership and community service. The exchange agendas include ample time for face-to-face interaction and dialogue which build strong people-to-people connections.
“Being in a different country with a language and customs different from the ones I have might sound […] shocking and overwhelming, but a positive and open mind, plus the willingness to learn, really helped me out to overcome those situations.”
“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.
This summer, CIED conducted a three-week exchange in the Dominican Republic for 29 U.S. Youth Ambassadors (American citizens from 14 states and the District of Columbia). The themes of the program were youth leadership, social entrepreneurship, and environmental protection. CIED partnered with the DREAM Project to develop educational and highly interactive exchange activities. After arriving in the capital of Santo Domingo and meeting with the U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps, participants traveled to the north coast where the spent nine days in the small community of Los Brazos. While there they lived with local families and participated in community service activities that included beautifying the community park and facilitating a summer camp for children and teens.