Padilla chosen to be Youth Ambassador to South America

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cassville junior one of only 10 chosen from 16 states

Cassville junior Marisa Padilla was one of only 10 youth recently chosen to travel to Washington, D.C., for one week, then to South America for three weeks as part of Partners of the Americas' U.S. Youth Ambassadors program, taking place in July.

During her time spent abroad, Padilla, 15, along with the other participants chosen, will stay with a host family and engage in activities with local government and civic organizations, visit schools and participate in skills-based workshops that empower youth to mobilize their communities toward positive change. Upon her return, she will be tasked with applying what she learned to design and implement a service project that benefits her local community.

The competition was open to youth between the ages of 15 and 17 in several states, including Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Wyoming, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C.

Padilla said she was thrilled to be chosen and applied for the program because it was in perfect alignment with her goals and passions.

"I was so ecstatic when I was accepted, and I just kept saying, 'I did it. I made it. I'm in,'" she said. "This program is basically everything I've ever wanted to do — travel, volunteer, experience new cultures, all while improving my leadership abilities, and the experience will provide me with the skills and resources to begin a life of service, starting with my own community. We will be meeting more youth in Colombia and visiting different organizations all designed to direct us into a life of service."

The program and expenses are completely funded through the Department of State, whose mission is to create a peaceful, prosperous, just world, and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.

Padilla learned about the opportunity through her connection to Rosario Keele, the vice president of Partners of the Americas’ Missouri chapter,. Applicants were selected through a competitive process, including academics, recommendation letters, leadership qualities, dedication to service and community, ability to adapt to new situations and environments, maturity and responsibility, ability to communicate effectively in Spanish, and age.

The application process was long, and the competition fierce, but Padilla said she is glad she made the effort.

"This application has consumed the last four months of my life, but it was definitely worth it for the things I will experience," she said. “I know this incredible opportunity will help me connect with other youth that are passionate about engaging with the world, both in their community and abroad." 

The Youth Ambassador also aims to project a more comprehensive image of Colombia than what international media portrays to educate others and influence future relations between the two countries. It was inspired by President John F. Kennedy and founded in 1964 under the Alliance for Progress.

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