Partners of the Americas’ Youth Ambassadors program was much more than just a simple trip; I grew, I was challenged, and succeeded in more ways than I ever thought I could. It was the first time I got on a plane, traveled outside of my country, interacted with deaf students and above all my first time representing my country abroad.
Mountain climbers often speak of false summits; those hills you see that you believe represent the culmination of your voyage, only to find that there is another steeper climb to follow. For Partners, I want to tell you about one first summit that, as real and amazing as it was, was indeed false with respect to the slow and gradual process of building a multifaceted international partnership.
Estamos en una era en la cual el acceso a la tecnología se está democratizando a pasos agigantados, muestra de ello es que en Colombia el Ministerio de las Tecnologías y la Información ha puesto en marcha el plan Vive Digital, el cual propone “tender las autopistas de la comunicación” para que todos los Colombianos cuenten con una conexión a internet, un gran desafío teniendo en cuenta varios factores uno de ellos es la geografía de nuestro país ya que existen zonas con difícil acceso como lo es el caso del departamento del Amazonas, sin embargo no es algo imposible de realizar.
Edited and Published by: Pamela Picon, Intern, Partners of the Americas
Foreword by: Abraham Cisne, Senior Program Officer, Youth Engagement
Partners is proud to highlight that last year´s Youth Ambassadors (YA) program funded by the U.S. State Department was an enormous success, including challenging innovations and involving Partners chapters that haven´t hosted in a long time. The 2014 YA program involved 45 very competitively selected participants from both Venezuela and Colombia who, after a week in Washington, DC, were hosted in three states: Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida. Youth participants ages 15-17 were selected through a process that considered merit, limited income and no previous travel abroad. The program focused on leadership, service/volunteerism, mutual understanding, and long-term engagement. Its sub themes included the environment and public safety.
Partners’ Youth Ambassadors Program, a U.S. State Department sponsored cultural exchange program, brings together youths of limited means and/or with limited international experience, ages 15-18, to build understanding among countries, increase leadership skills, and prepare them to be positive agents of change through volunteer service. In 2012, eleven Guyanese youth and two adult Guyanese mentors participated in the program. While in the U.S., they were engaged with local government and civic organizations, built relationships with host families and youths, and participated in skills-based training that enabled and empowered them to mobilize their communities towards positive change. The youth were empowered to build mutual understanding among countries, enhance leadership skills, be conscious minded, expose themselves to cultures in and out of the country, work and relate with each other, be positive agents of change through volunteer service and replicate what they have learned.
I’ve been a member of the Partners of the Americas’ family since my participation on the Youth Ambassadors program in spring 2010-- five years ago. By that time I had just turned fifteen, and I was a junior in High School in Caracas, Venezuela. Now it’s been almost two years since I’ve been living and studying at university in Montpellier, in the south of France.
Give a young person the chance to travel, and they’ll likely never be the same. I saw this firsthand in the conversations I had with former Youth Ambassadors (YA) and YouthLead SENA participants in a recent 10-day trip to Colombia focusing on productive work meetings with stakeholders such as the U.S. Embassy, Partners Chapters, Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA), Universidad del Norte and other schools.
It's been approximately five years since I came out to myself as a gay man. It was precisely during my masters studies in the United States, when I was first exposed to a truly open and diverse environment, that I was able to overcome all of my fears and hesitations to admit it. Because of this, when I first learned about the Legislative Fellows Program run by Partners of the Americas, I was doubtful of the impact that this program could have in my personal and professional life, since I'd already “lived the American experience”.
Youth are often referred to as “the future,” or the next generation of leaders. At Partners of the Americas, we firmly believe that youth are leaders in the present. They are dynamic members of our society who actively contribute to the economic, cultural, and social development of our communities.