As a member of the press and outreach team at the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo, my work includes outreach to the public, especially the media. The media play an essential part in ensuring the health of democratic institutions throughout our region. One of the pillars of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere's policy in our region is the support of democratic institutions and the rule of law. The media are not under attack in my country, as they are in some places, but investing in the future media of our region will reap solid returns -- of that, I'm confident.
That is why it was such a pleasure to accompany the four winners of the embassy's "Youth Correspondents Program" -- future journalists Cynthia Rocha, Georgina Kluver, Manuela Garcia, and Helen Bernatzky -- on a week-long professional development tour in Washington and Miami. The program was made possible through a grant from the Department of State's Innovation Fund for Public Diplomacy, in partnership with a number of Uruguayan press organizations. The program promoted media freedom, social inclusion, and job skill development while reaching new audiences in rural areas and encouraging young people to participate in promoting and protecting freedom of expression, helping them develop skills and networks in the field of journalism.
The U.S. Embassy selected 18 high school students between the ages of 15 and 18, one from each of the country's 18 interior regions, to work as correspondents and interact with the embassy's press office. Each candidate received equipment and training. The young correspondents reported on news and activities in the communities they represent, and published their articles, photos, and videos using blogs they established. Throughout the program, the correspondents received ongoing mentoring by volunteer professionals including prominent Uruguayan and U.S. journalists. In Washington, Cynthia, Georgina, Manuela, and Helen visited the World Bank, the State Department's Foreign Press Center, and Voice of America.
This program, supporting the future of journalism in Uruguay, has been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable projects of my career. I'm looking forward to the day when these young people enter the professional ranks in Uruguay, and I look at them across the room at a press conference, as they ask the tough questions that help uphold democracy and the rule of law.