The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H Program recently hosted 24 students and four adults from Colombia and Ecuador as part of the 2013 Youth Ambassadors Program.
The program is funded by Department of State through its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
The participants stayed with host families for three weeks, from Oct. 6-27, and participated in various activities that included visiting historic sites in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, meeting with officials including U.S. Rep. John Carney, visiting Delaware schools, taking in a live showing of the theatrical production Spider-Man: Turn Off the Darkand touring Times Square in New York City.
Mark Manno, Delaware 4-H program leader, said the participants learned a lot about American culture during their stay, perhaps most of all from the host families with whom they stayed. “It was interesting to hear, after they had stayed with host families for awhile, how their opinions changed,” said Manno, noting that a lot of the students came to the country with preconceived notions about the United States and American families.
One participant, Felipe Solano Paute from Ecuador, said, “One of the things that I have learned from this trip is a lot of history about the United States, many things that I didn’t know before, and I have changed the way I think about some aspects of the United States. American people have been very kind and very open to welcome us — and not only our host families but, in general, they have been very kind.”
Colombia’s Luna Sierra said she enjoyed talking with officials, as well as spending time with young people in America. “There is a lot of respect to other people and there is a lot of technology. In America, you have to work hard but you will find success at the end of the road.”
Sierra said that she and her classmates will be “taking with them the best of the American culture.”
Daniel Quinones, also from Colombia, agreed with that assessment, stating that his favorite part of the trip was “the way in which the host families have welcomed us into their homes. They have taught us a lot about how they as a family behave and the family culture.”
The visits to Delaware schools were equally interesting to the students, as Quinones said that he was surprised about how much technology is used in American classrooms.
Manno, who picked up one of the students from St. Elizabeth High School in Wilmington, said, “The kids went to really great schools and they were really impressed. The kids were a huge hit in the schools, especially in the Spanish classes. They loved to have a Spanish speaker there. At the end of the day, I went to St. Elizabeth to pick those kids up and when I got there, there were all these St. Elizabeth kids gathered around them, so they made a lot of friends in a hurry and it was a really good project.”
Manno also pointed out that one of the best experiences the students had was attending a 4-H leadership camp in Sussex County the first weekend they arrived in the United States along with Delaware 4-H members. Manno credited Mallory Vogl, New Castle County 4-H Educator, for putting the camp together.
“We ended up with about 60 kids and it was terrific. Even though we had 7.5 inches of rain in Sussex County that weekend, the kids just bonded. The South American kids got to spend a whole weekend with the Delaware kids, and that was just terrific. They just really hit it off, so I have to give credit to Mallory Vogl for that –she really stepped up,” said Manno.
The experience was equally positive for the adult chaperones who accompanied the students on the trip.
One of the chaperones, Cynthia Orna Ladd from Ecuador, said that while the students visited schools, her host family took her to see Longwood Gardens in nearby Pennsylvania.
Orna Ladd said it was fun to see the reactions of the students as they saw America for the first time, and that she enjoyed spending time with an American family. “I’ve only been in an Ecuadorian family environment but to be with American people, to be part of the family and such is great,” she said. “I’m living with a couple of retired people so they have all the time to talk to me and the mom used to teach home economics, so she cooks very well. I went with them to Longwood Gardens and that was very nice — that’s the thing that I’ve appreciated the most.”
Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Danielle Quigley
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