Alumni reflect upon cultural immersion and learning experiences through the Youth Ambassadors Program
By Eric House
World Learning’s Youth Ambassadors Program brings together high school students and adult mentors from across the Western Hemisphere to promote mutual understanding, increase leadership skills, and prepare youth to make a difference in their communities.
For 20 years, the program has brought nearly 500 students and educators from more than 30 countries together annually for in-person and virtual exchanges that explore themes like social inclusion, entrepreneurship, diplomacy, and environmental protection.
Through experiential learning activities, leadership training, mentoring, and volunteering, participants are encouraged to go beyond their comfort zones and immerse themselves in new environments — all with the goal of building cross-cultural connections, gaining personal and professional skills, and making a positive difference in their own communities.
Read on to learn what recent Youth Ambassadors alumni have said about their experiences and the impact the program had on them.
“My Youth Ambassadors experience was a launching pad for becoming an individual who is comfortable with being uncomfortable and who seeks out the viewpoints of those around me. Everything I learned from my time in the program allowed me to be more open to pushing myself and my limits, giving me the opportunity to grow immensely since my time in Brazil.” — Lauren Davis, Brazil, 2018
“Being a Youth Ambassador and alumni advisor has had a profound impact on the way I engage with my local and international community. Participation in the program gave me a more globalized understanding of critical issues facing our world, such as climate change, social justice, and wealth distribution. Each day I strive to find ways to incorporate the lessons I learned from Youth Ambassadors into the work I do.” — Joseph Cortas, Uruguay, 2018
My Youth Ambassadors experience was a launching pad for becoming an individual who is comfortable with being uncomfortable and who seeks out the viewpoints of those around me.
“The relationships that I formed with other ambassadors, and the leadership and communication skills that I obtained, have prepared me to succeed in a future career in a variety of fields. Not only have I connected with a multitude of international exchange alumni, but I have also been privileged to gain access to numerous grants from the State Department to carry out service projects and make a difference in my community.” — Avanthika Panchapakesan, Ecuador, 2019
“[Youth Ambassadors] definitely changed my life and gave me confidence in the voice I have right now because I know that my voice is powerful. Even if I cannot impact a million people, I can impact my community and that’s powerful and that’s what matters.” — Dante Ezequiel Studenko Chamorro, Paraguay, 2021
“Despite my Youth Ambassadors programming being virtual that summer, I still took away so many valuable lessons that shaped who I am today. Youth Ambassadors taught me that being a leader is an act of service, the labor of seeking to understand what every team member uniquely needs to thrive. And, that the only way to gain this sensitivity is through awareness of diverse cultural identities. I feel much more strongly connected with my Latinx community after looking further than my roots in one specific country to learn about others.” — Mia Francesca Isabella Lupica, Brazil (virtual), 2020
The relationships that I formed with other ambassadors, and the leadership and communication skills that I obtained, have prepared me to succeed in a future career in a variety of fields.
“[Youth Ambassadors] further developed my advocacy for diversity and representation. There is so much that the world has to offer, so many different cultures, perspectives, and experiences that deserve more recognition, and most importantly, acceptance. What I appreciated about the Youth Ambassadors program is that these differences were accepted, celebrated, and even encouraged. We were all there with a common goal — building community and learning how to make a change in our own communities.” — Jennifer Quiroz, Argentina & Chile, 2018
Youth Ambassadors is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government. The program is administered by World Learning in partnership with Amigos de las Américas and Georgetown University CIED.