Youth Week

Last week was our youth and education week.  Our posts in Brasília, São Paulo, Rio and Recife processed almost 600 program participants (37 Youth Ambassadors, 20 Student Leaders, and 540 Public School English Teachers, CAPL).   This launch is a big step in a continuing success in connection the American and the Brazilian nations and an investment in the future.

The biggest group was the 540 teachers of English. Minister of Education Mercadante and Ambassador Shannon gave the high profile send off in Brasília as did teams in São Paulo, Rio, and Recife.  Our Brazilian friends recognize the need for English and they are encouraging progress with a six week capacity building programs at eighteen higher education institutions throughout the U.S.  The picture above is from that event.  We also signed an agreement to keep the program going with another 540 teachers going out in July.

Our part of the program is identifying programs in the U.S. as well has helping with visas and logistics.  Our Brazilian friends are doing the heavy lifting and supporting the teachers.  I love this program and I am proud of the input we had in helping shape it.  Participants are all public school teachers representing all twenty-six states in Brazil plus the Federal District.  We all think that spreading the benefits to all corners of the country is an important goal.  I got to meet a lot of the teachers.  For many, this was their first time travelling outside Brazil and many had not even travelled much within Brazil. This will be a life changing experience for them and I hope they will be able to change and improve the lives of countless students when they get back.  This is a big deal and being part of the aspirations of so many people is a fantastic privilege.

I have written about Youth Ambassadors before.  The Youth Ambassadors are also chosen from public schools with special care taken to make sure that every Brazilian state is represented.  This is “our” program in that we organize it, but it also has become a shared success with our Brazilian partners.  We had almost 17,000 applicants for the thirty-seven available slots.  Our partners throughout Brazil winnow this number down to a manageable number (about 200).  After that, my colleagues read through all applications and make the final choices.  It is a tough job. We could easily send 500 w/o diminishing quality, but I don’t have the staff or the cash to make it happen.  I am trying to think of ways to get somebody else to take up some of the slack. 

This year we are partnering with EMBRATUR for the first time. EMBRATUR is the Brazilian tourist agency.   One of the reasons why Youth Ambassadors is so well accepted here is that it truly is a partnership.  We are not just explaining America to Brazilians but also helping Americans understand Brazilians.  EMBRATUR helped with materials and information, helping our Youth Ambassadors know their own country.  Many of the Youth Ambassadors have not traveled much in Brazil and it is great to have a partner like EMBRATUR.

This week we also launched this year’s Student Leaders.  Twenty of them will go to University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  The Student Leaders are older than the Youth Ambassadors and different from the SwB students because they are studying subjects such as political science and history. I think we generally do a good job with youth in Brazil because we have such great youth to work with.  I am inspired when I talk to them and glad that they want to learn about the U.S.

We held a big pizza party at Casa Thomas Jefferson to honor all the groups that were leaving from Brasília.  Similar events were held in Rio, São Paulo and Recife, but I can best describe ours.  141 “youth” showed up for the party.  I put youth in quotation marks because the teachers are youth in comparison to me but maybe not all are youth in comparison to … very young people.  One of our staff acted as MC and did a wonderful job.   Everyone seemed to have a good time, but it was a little loud for me. The Youth Ambassadors seemed to love Gangham style.  I didn’t know what that was until a few weeks ago and I can see why kids like it.  They all got up and danced frenetically when it came on.  I didn’t dance.

Pictures show some of the groups, plus the pizza makers and CTJ Southwest.