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Helping the Youth of Today Globalize with Amigos de las Americas

By Elisha Neubauer

In a world filled with so many unique cultures, customs, and heritage, how does one learn to truly accept these incredible differences? Amigos de las Americas has created a pathway for students, both high school and college, to submerge themselves in another culture completely, allowing them to experience life from a new perspective.

Amigos de las Americas is a youth development program that specializes in helping young adults reach their potential as leaders in a global community. "We provide extraordinary opportunities for youth to design and lead projects in collaboration with US and Latin American peers and partner organizations across the Americas," explains Natalie Murdock, Managing Director of Marketing. "Our strong partner network, built over 50 years, enables authentic engagements in communities across the region."

But what does Amigos actually do? The company works as an organizer for volunteer abroad programs for students- both high school and college. They will set the individual up with a full immersion program, taking care of everything from travel coordination, providing a mentor in the area, and pre-program training. Before the project begins, there is a full 30 hours of training which covers cultural differences, practical skills, and more. Each participant is granted a travel liaison that handles the organization of the flights and meets them at the gateway city in Latin America. For each project, there is a core team of project directors and adult mentors to aid the participant during the immersion time.

"Summer participants can expect to live in a rural to semi-urban community with 1-2 other participants, during which time they will be immersed in the culture of the region, country, and their specific community," says Murdock. "Their experience may be from 4-8 weeks long."

During this time, the student can expect to work side by side with community members in order execute a program based on the community's current needs. "These initiatives will vary widely from community to community and project to project," explains Murdock. "They will also be leading extracurricular activities with the youth and children in the community during the week."

For those participating in a GAP program, they will be placed with a host family, allowing them to learn more about the day to day culture and lifestyle of that country. "They are paired with a partner organization and carry out an internship with that organization," Murdock details. "They, too, will work with community members to carry out a community project. Their experience will be one or two semesters long."

Murdock stresses why she feels these programs are such a good idea for the youth of today: "It is an opportunity for participants to be independent and grow as leaders, to learn more about a new culture by experiencing it hands on, and to improve their Spanish through immersion," she says. "Participants also have the opportunity to build long-lasting friendships with their fellow participants, local youth, host families, and other community members. This kind of experience has the potential to impact participants' worldview and the way they interact with others."

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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