Throughout Pan American Week, we celebrate the friendships and close partnerships across our hemisphere that advance the ability of our citizens to enjoy freedom and reach for their highest aspirations. I recently had the opportunity to see how a unique partnership is helping the students of El Salvador achieve their goals when First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters met with a group of hard-working students in San Salvador's Superate Centers.
Reflecting on Mrs. Obama's visit to the center on March 22, student Tania said, “What I liked about this experience is that Mrs. Obama told us that we should never give up, that we have to continue doing our best in life and I really appreciate that of her."
Superate is an after-school program for promising teenagers from underprivileged backgrounds. A new center, the sixth in the Superate family, will open soon, with classroom space and a clinic for the students, factory workers, and their families. The teenagers worked alongside Mrs. Obama and her daughters to paint a mural on the new clinic's front wall. The theme of youth involvement in community service meshed perfectly with the messages Mrs. Obama delivered throughout her trip to El Salvador, Chile, and Brazil.
While they painted, the teenagers and Mrs. Obama chatted about topics including studies, sports and cultural differences. The Salvadoran youths were most impressed by her words of encouragement. Several students commented on her saying she was proud of them and how that made them want to keep up their work.
Carlos said, "She inspired us to keep doing the things we do nowadays for our communities. We are the future of El Salvador and with her words, which were very motivational, I think I will never give up and I will keep giving my best effort in my everyday activities. She gave us her words and a smile that shows us that someone believes in us."
Kary was impressed to learn that Mrs. Obama had received a scholarship for her education: "In life if you work hard and love what you are doing you are going to receive surprises, and for me, it gave me the strength to keep my faith and know that all of my dreams can come true if I really try and trust in myself. If Mrs. Obama studied with the support of a scholarship, I know she's an example to follow for the women from all over parts of this beautiful world who can do more than you think."
Thirty students from the five existing Superate centers joined the event, along with three students who were preparing to depart for the United States for the Youth Ambassadors leadership exchange program. Through Superate -- a public-private partnership with support from local industries, Microsoft, and the U.S. Agency for International Development -- young people spend three hours a day for three years studying English and computer skills under the mentorship of caring adults. The superior English language skills and poise the students develop in the program have opened new doors of opportunity for them, such as scholarships to the United States.