What does it mean to be a Youth Ambassador?
The Youth Ambassadors program represents a unique opportunity for participants, but also comes with great responsibility as you have been selected from among many applicants to represent your country while traveling abroad. As a participant, you will have the opportunity to talk about your country and share information with others. You will also have the opportunity to learn from youth in the host country/community. The knowledge and experience gained through hands-on activities, site visits and workshops revolve around the themes of volunteer service, leadership, civic participation and mutual understanding.
While Partners guarantees that participants will have fun on this trip, we also want to make sure that participants understand the level of responsibility accepted by becoming a Youth Ambassador. You will be a representative of your country of origin, and you will acquire new skills and resources to be used to make your community a better place after returning.
Who will accompany me on the trip?
Youth Ambassadors participants will travel with an adult mentor, typically an educator who will accompany the group to the host country and back. Mentors are selected by Partners for their dedication to working with youth, previous travel experience and commitment to responsibility. The group will meet in Washington, DC, for an orientation with Partners prior to departure to Colombia. Program activities will be concentrated in Washington, DC, during the first week followed by three weeks spent in two cities in Colombia, Bogotá (the capital) and Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast. Participants will stay in a hotel in Washington and Bogotá followed by a homestay with screened host families in Barranquilla. Program staff with significant experience will also guide the group during all programmed activities in the United States and Colombia.
Partners will provide accident and sickness coverage for all Youth Ambassadors participants through the U.S. Department of State. In the case that you become sick or hurt, Partners staff or your homestay mother or father will accompany you to a local doctor or hospital.
In order to better ensure the health, safety and welfare of our participants, criminal background checks must be run on all staff and mentors participating in the program. In addition, Partners requires criminal background checks for host family members who are over 18 and are living in the host home during program dates.
As the U.S. State Department highlights on its travel website, “Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Colombia each year for tourism, business, university studies, and volunteer work. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Bogotá, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Medellíin, and Cali.”
Colombia is located in northern South America and has a population of over 46 million people, making it the third most populous country in Latin America. Seventy-five percent of Colombians live in urban or semi-urban areas. The official language is Spanish. Colombia is as big as the states of California and Texas put together. Its diverse natural environment includes large coral reefs, coastal areas, wetlands, mountain chains, grasslands, highlands and Amazonian rainforest. Colombia’s government is a constitutional republic. Democratically elected President Juan Manuel Santos began his four-year term on August 7, 2010. The country is divided into 32 administrative departments, each with its own governor and popularly elected local representatives. Colombia has the world’s 29th largest economy, which has experienced a decade of relatively strong economic growth in terms of its gross domestic product (GDP).
Despite historical concerns around safety for travelers to Colombia, crime in Colombia has decreased significantly in the capital city, Bogotá, and the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla, which are among the safest in the country. With the recent return of U.S. volunteers to Colombia through the Peace Corps, a thorough investigation to assess conditions for hosting U.S. citizens was carried out across the country. The investigation revealed that the Caribbean region, including cities like Barranquilla where Youth Ambassadors will be spending the majority of their time in Colombia, is the safest for Peace Corps volunteers. For these and other reasons, the U.S. Department of State sponsors this program to the mentioned cities in Colombia. Program participants will also be with the group and program staff or host families at all times.
Summar Lyons, Program Officer, Youth Engagement & Higher Education Initiatives
Summar Lyons is a Program Officer for the Youth Engagement and Higher Education Initiatives at Partners. She helps manage grant competitions and event planning for the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund. Additionally, Ms. Lyons implements youth leadership exchange programs that prepare youth leaders to build mutual understanding between Latin America and the United States and to develop skills that foster long-term commitment to volunteerism and service.
While living in Costa Rica, Ms. Lyons served as a project management advisor and youth development liaison in collaboration with the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (P.A.N.I) and the Board of Directors of two Development Associations where she helped implement children’s rights and environmental awareness campaigns, youth leadership and life skills workshops, and the construction of a sports court project. Upon her return to the nited States, she was selected to be a Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellow. In this role, she volunteered at Woodrow Wilson High School, DC Bilingual Public Charter School and Next Step supporting global studies resource development and English learning initiatives. She earned a M.A. in International Development from American University’s School of International Service with a concentration in Children and Youth Development and a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Spanish from Northwestern University. Ms. Lyons is deeply passionate about sharing how volunteerism abroad not only has a meaningful impact on improving the lives of others but also has a lasting effect on one’s personal and professional growth.
Abraham Cisne, Assistant Director, Global Leadership
Abraham Cisne is the Assistant Director for Global Leadership. Mr. Cisne joined Partners with significant professional experience in democracy and governance, education, public policy, and international development. He began his professional career as a Social Sciences Fellow at Temple University, then as a Public Policy Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Both as a college student and professional, he has experienced working, studying, and living in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
In early 2011, Mr. Cisne started as a Program Officer with Partners’ Youth Engagement Team and has since worked with youth and young adults from 14 nations across the Americas and the Caribbean including Colombia, Venezuela, and the U.S. He believes that quality international exchanges can foster leadership and entrepreneurial abilities in individuals and contribute to societal advancement. Today, he draws from both his domestic and international professional experiences to co-lead the design, management, implementation, and facilitation for international leadership and social entrepreneurship programming funded by the U.S. State Department, Colombia's National Service for Learning (SENA), and other partners. Mr. Cisne holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Latin American Studies from Temple University.