In July 2015, 17-year-old Paige Johnson, along with ten other youth from across the U.S., traveled to Colombia for two weeks to participate in the unprecedented State Department-funded U.S Youth Ambassadors program there. During her time in Bogotá and Barranquilla, Johnson’s passion for learning Spanish, volunteering, and working with children grew. And when she returned home, Johnson wanted to share her passion with her community in San Antonio, TX.
Youth Ambassadors brings together youth, ages 15–18, of limited means and/or limited international experience to build understanding among countries, increase leadership skills and develop a commitment to service. During the program, youth engage with local government and civic organizations, build relationships with host families and their peers, and participate in skills-based training that enables and empowers them to mobilize their communities toward positive change.
“Through the Youth Ambassadors program, I improved my confidence in my Spanish-speaking abilities. I hope to ignite a similar passion for the language in San Antonio’s youth,” Johnson said.
Johnson is an active leader and member of her high school’s International School of the America’s Spanish Honor Society chapter. After returning from the Youth Ambassadors program, she founded the Learning in Spanish Transforming Opportunities (LISTO) bilingual reading program in October 2015. Once a week, she and other volunteer members of her honor society travel to a local elementary school where they read stories in Spanish and teach Spanish vocabulary to students ages 5 – 8 as a method of fostering cross cultural conversations between students of all ages and Spanish-speaking abilities.
The program engages over a dozen volunteers and more than 20 students per week. Johnson is currently in the process of expanding the program to other elementary schools in her district in hopes that the program will become incorporated into other schools’ Spanish clubs and honor societies. Her long-term vision is that LISTO will “prepare students for an increasingly global economy and workforce.”
Applications for U.S. Youth Ambassadors 2016 are now open! To learn more or to apply to be a Youth Ambassador please visit: http://www.partners.net/youth-ambassadors.