Twenty Haitian high school students and two teachers recently came to the United States to learn better how to respond to disasters and participate in the reconstruction of Haiti. Representing their country as part of the U.S. Department of State's Youth Ambassadors Program, the group also learned about American culture and history. Each delegate was selected because they had demonstrated exceptional commitment to public service and shown an interest in improving their local communities.
Students began their exchange in New York, where they learned about the history and culture of the United States, visited local civic and community organizations, participated in workshops and received leadership training. From there, they went on stay with American families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or Ridgewood, New Jersey. In their final week, they came to Washington, D.C., where they looked at issues from a national context and polished their action plans for projects at home. The students also met with officials from the State Department and USAID who congratulated them on completing the program, and offered words of encouragement.
During the meeting, Philemon from Jeremie spoke on behalf of the group. “You have not spent your money for nothing,” he said. “[We are] eager to make a change in our community and Haiti.”
The delegation was the first of its kind from Haiti, though the U.S. welcomes more than 400 Youth Ambassadors from 25 countries across the Americas each year. Thirty-eight Youth Ambassadors from Brazil had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January of this year.
"I hope that this is a start of an even better relationship between Brazil and the United States and that all of you will be part of our continuing outreach," she told the students. "I want it just not to be between our governments ... and our leaders, but between our people."
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State works to facilitate this person-to-person relationship in all of its exchange programs. In reaching out to youth, it aims to empower the next generation and establish long-lasting ties between the United States and other countries.