Reflections From Our 2017 Youth Ambassadors

Lindsay Cox, Consultant, Youth Exchanges

The Youth Ambassadors program consists of 20 youth and 2 adult mentors from across Colombia and Venezuela who travel to Washington, D.C. for one week, and subsequently spend two weeks in either Arkansas or Tennessee. Youth and mentor participants spend three weeks in the United States engaging with local government and civic organizations, building relationships with host families and other youth, visiting schools and participating in skills-based workshops that enable and empower them to mobilize their communities towards positive change.

By promoting and developing interaction between these three countries, youth realize their potential to promote positive changes in their communities now and in the future. Upon returning home, youth apply what they learned throughout the exchange to design and implement service projects that benefit their communities. Program subthemes include social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and peace building.

Below are some of their reflections.

This program was made to unite us Youth Ambassadors. Being an ambassador means representing your country, and sharing the culture and traditions from your country. After listening to YAs speak about their beloved countries, I found that this experience brought together individuals, who may have had very little understanding of the countries beforehand, to grow together and find a connection amongst mutual understanding. - Luis Ángel Hurtado Rendón (VZ)

This program taught us about values, such as leadership and service, that we will be able to bring back to other youth and future youth in our home countries and communities. - Fabián Stevens Chaustre Sánchez (VZ)

Because of the Youth Ambassadors program, I now want to create an service-based organization in my community in which people can learn about the importance of experiencing a new culture or another language. - José Leonardo Sánchez Fernández (VZ)

I will tell the people back home about everything. I will try to help educate them on culture in the United States in a way that will hopefully change their perspective of the United States and its people. I will try to break down the borders that separate us, and I will focus on detailing all that we have in common and all that unites us. - Jeimy Alejandra Ramos Junco (CO)

This is an experience focused on opening young people minds, and showing them that there is more to this world than what they already know. Through this program, we have had the opportunity to learn about each other cultures and develop an understanding for it so that relationships can prosper in the future. - Atenea Valentina Giménez Salazar (VZ)

After having participated in this program, I am driven to pass along all that I have learned and circulate my new knowledge all throughout my community. I will tell to my friends and family that experiences like this can really alter your perspective and open your eyes to all that is out there. I will encourage those I that I am with to also embark on journeys like mine and try to teach them that experiences like this are not impossible to be a part of. - Vanessa Alexandra Maldonado (VZ)

The program has and will continue to help me immensely with my future plans. The Youth Ambassadors program has really opened my eyes and has made me realize what I really want to do: help others. I believe that making connections between countries is the best way to foster a mutual understanding, and through this experience, I have learned things that have greatly changed my perspective. I now know that there are good people in other countries that have big hearts and that want to give back to their communities as well; that want to make a change and love learning as much as I do. So, I think that this program is really impactful, because it teaches us how to break preconceived stigmatization that we may have about other cultures. - Jeimy Alejandra Ramos Junco (CO)

This program has allowed for many cultures to communicate and interact and, in this way, their representatives have shared the hardships and strengths of their countries, allowing for participants to further understand the differences and similarities between countries. This program works as a bridge for the three nations. - María Fernanda Martínez Agudelo (CO)

This experience broke down a lot of assumed stereotypes that I had heard and helped me to develop deeper knowledge of the communities that we were all a part of throughout this trip. - Hernán Danilo Moreno Ordúz (CO)

By having the tools for our future, we are the upcoming generation that will seek to improve cultural understanding between nations by means effective communication and growing and strengthening our countries from the inside out. - Louisianna Saraí Fernández Acosta (VZ)

Click on here to learn more about our 2017 Colombian and Venezuelan Youth Ambassadors and mentors.