THE elated faces of parents and the anxious, but excited expressions of nine youth ambassadors filled the room last Tuesday as the US Embassy Youth Ambassadors programme prepared to send another set of Jamaican children to the US.
Public relations officer of the Embassy, Yolonda Kerney characterised this programme as an opportunity that included “three weeks of leadership and project management training. While there, they [the smbassadors] live with host families and interact with American youth, as well as youth Ambassadors from other Caribbean countries. Upon their return to Jamaica, the students implement a Leadership in Action (LIA) project”.
Jamaica’s young representatives-to-be were told what to expect and what was expected of them by a number of representatives but were retreated to a special preview by former youth ambassador Andre Bromley.
In telling of his experiences Bromley quoted Barbara Gloudon’s words to him as he implored the nine students, chosen from five schools across St James (Cambridge High, Green Pond High, Irwin High, Spot Valley High, and St James High), to “showcase Jamaica in no uncertain way”.
Bromley later told TEENage that the best part of being a youth ambassador was “the experience of leadership and appreciation for other cultures and even my own [culture]. The first set of youth ambassadors in Jamaica, which Bromley was a part of, created a homework centre in Trench Town as their Leadership-In-Action (LIA) project.”
The current group will need to come up with a project of their own when the return from the trip which they leave for in early February.
The youth ambassadors were put forward by their individual schools and were interviewed by the embassy in order to get the chance to travel to the Denver, Colorado and Washington, DC to experience the leadership training by this year’s partner, BoldLeaders organisation.
They were told to prepare themselves for cold unlike anything they had felt before, culture shock, an immersion in American culture and a leadership experience of a lifetime.
They were also reminded that they were the young embodiments of a long and fruitful relationship between Jamaica and the USA.
The US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Raymond Brown, as he told them of the beauty of Western USA, charged the youthful delegates to “Relax and be yourself, Brand Jamaica is global. Don’t be shy, strange places must be explored, people who dig below the surface gain an enriching experience”. He urged them to be confident as he conveyed to them that “You are going, not necessarily as a foreigner; you are going as a partner, as a friend.”
In a talk with TEENage, the youth ambassador from Cambridge High, diminutive Samoy Tomlinson, said that she had never been out of the country before and was excited and scared, but “most looking forward to meeting new people and interacting with new cultures.
The 16-year-old fourth former and sub-prefect said she wanted to participate in this programme because “for one, being able to represent my school in a foreign country and meet people from other cultures”.
The Youth Ambassadors Programme within the Caribbean will bring 78 students (10–15 from each country, ages 15–18) and 12 adult youth educators. The nations include the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.