As summer winds down in Washington D.C., half the globe enjoys the last days of winter. This last week of August, our photo comes to us from the U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, where the photographer captured a group of U.S. Youth Ambassadors enjoying a moment's break from their official duties.
Summer -- at least in the northern hemisphere -- is the high season for youth exchanges of every variety, with all regions of the world. Whether it's a leadership program for Mexican youth, Americans and Norwegians meeting over soccer, Egyptians and Americans meeting over basketball, "Camp America" in rural Tajikistan, Libyan Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, Benjamin Franklin Fellows examining transatlantic issues, or teens from South Asia coming together for political change through individual transformation, youth exchanges enrich communities and "pay forward" their lessons over a lifetime. As Secretary Clinton said, "Such citizen diplomacy may start with one visiting student and his or her host family, but it ripples throughout communities in the United States and abroad. Many exchange students return home with positive impressions of America, and they go on to become leaders in their own countries."
Nearly 27,000 international secondary school students come to the United States each year and are hosted by American families. As Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock recently remarked, host families exemplify some of our country's greatest values -- tolerance, generosity, civic engagement -- and the benefits accrue to the exchange student and host family alike. Hosting is a wonderful way to share ideas, celebrate commonalities, bridge differences, challenge stereotypes, and experience a different culture.
It isn't too early to begin thinking about next summer: information for young people is available here; for prospective host families, here. With August 2010 also marking the beginning of the UN's "International Year of Youth," we hope the next twelve months will see these programs, and the people-to-people ties that they establish, flourishing around the world.