American Youth Ambassadors in Brazil: Jimmy Bernard’s Story
One of the best parts of our job in the International Visitor Program (IVP) is hearing from people whose lives have been impacted by our programs. A remarkable opportunity for local high school students to get involved is through the reverse exchange component of some of the Department of State youth programs we host. In 2015 we are recruiting high school students to participate in Youth Ambassador programs for Brazil and Argentina/Chile, and a US-based leadership program with students from Iraq. Last year Jimmy Bernard, currently a junior at Roosevelt High School, was selected to go on the reverse exchange to Brazil as an American Youth Ambassador. We caught up with him to hear about his trip.
This past summer I had the wonderful experience of spending time in a new place with new people and absolutely loving it. After my high school social studies teacher recommended the program, I was one of very few at my school who decided to apply. I spent time writing essays and collecting recommendations. Once those were completed, I went through a phone interview and then a person-to-person interview with one of the program’s staff members. After a rigorous application process, I finally was accepted into the program – an experience that would change my life forever.
The Seattle Youth Ambassadors group including myself, three other students, and our adult mentor only met up once before our trip. Had I realized then how amazing these people were, I would have looked for a way to spend more time with them before our departure!
Once I was accepted into the program I truly had no idea what exactly I was getting myself into, and my expectations were totally blown away. Throughout the trip I spent time in amazing places with amazing people; a waterfall resort with my host family, the beautiful capitol parkway with US and Brazilian Youth Ambassadors, and enjoying the amazing food, among many other things. The whole trip reestablished how I interact with people; I have become more confident when speaking in front of groups of people after all the time spent in classrooms in front of groups of Brazilian students. To be totally honest there were several interactions that were awkward, but those experiences helped me come back even stronger and helped me to learn what to do and not do.
I would like to expand on one of my many favorite parts of my trip, the host community. Living with another family for two weeks was something I will never forget. My host family had some of the coolest, kindest, and most caring people I have met anywhere. All of us would spend time together any chance we could, which was my goal. I did not want to go home and wish that I had spent less time in my room alone, and more time with my host family, so I was with them as much as I possibly could be. Evenings and weekends were the time that we were given to spend with our families. My first night with my family I went to a birthday party and I immediately became a part of their everyday lives. I felt very special being a part of something I was just introduced to. Every night on the weekend there seemed to be some sort of social gathering at the house. Friends or family and sometimes both would come over and barbecue and swim and for hours. And I was made a part of that.
If you are reading this and you don’t know if you should apply or not, do it! Take a chance. I was in the same place as you and I’m so glad I applied. Think of all the amazing things that can and will happen if you do. When you are given a chance to be a part of something as special as the Youth Ambassadors program, don’t let that pass you by.
Jimmy had an incredible experience in Brazil, and he and his family are looking forward to being involved again through hosting a participant on the upcoming Brazil Youth Ambassadors Program in Seattle. They can’t wait to welcome a Brazilian high school student into their home, just as Jimmy was welcomed into the home of his host family in Brazil. If you’re interested in being a host family, we are still seeking host families for six more Brazilian participants arriving next week! Apply here or call Amy Kasper at (206) 441-5910 ext. 311.