On July 9, 68 public high school students from 15 states in Mexico departed for a five-week stay in the United States. The students make up this year's cohort of Jovenes en Accion, an innovative youth exchange program that brings Mexican high school students to the United States to develop leadership skills, foster civic engagement, and support mutual understanding between the United States and Mexico. The first Jovenes en Accion came to the United States in the summer of 2010, and over the past year, they have been working to improve their communities in Mexico through the service projects they developed during the program.
Students who apply must demonstrate leadership and present ideas for projects that will make a difference in their communities in Mexico. This year's group of inspiring young women and men developed project ideas that focus on countering problems such as poverty, lack of education, bullying, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, and drug trafficking. The Jovenes en Accion students are committed to confronting and overcoming these difficult issues. This program, with its intensive leadership and community service training workshops, direct interaction with community and civil society leaders, and support in developing community service projects with clear action plans, will give the students critical skills to help them successfully implement their projects in Mexico.
The students have completed two weeks of intensive language, leadership, and civic education workshops at the World Learning School for International Training Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. Now, they have divided into smaller groups for two-week host community segments in five cities. A week-long Global Leader Education and Engagement Institute, community volunteering, home stays, and cultural events will immerse them in U.S. society and culture.
For the last week of the program, the students will reunite in Washington D.C., where they will meet with members of Congress, Department of State officials, representatives of the Embassy of Mexico, and civil society leaders. They will study U.S. history and culture, and put the finishing touches on their community service projects. On August 10, the students will present their projects to government officials, civil society leaders, and students before returning to Mexico.
This exchange experience marks the beginning of what I expect will be a long and successful trajectory for these students as future leaders and civil society actors in Mexico. Just as the participants in the Jovenes en Accion group did in 2010, they will return home with a challenging mission -- to change their communities, their country, and the world -- and I am confident that they will succeed.