This summer, we welcomed a second cohort of Haitian high school students to Portland, Maine, to participate in the Youth Ambassadors Program, sponsered by the Department of State. The 14 students and their two adult mentors visited Maine from July 12 - 24 and stayed in the homes of host families that live in the greater Portland area -- including two current CIEE employees.
The Youth Ambassadors Program brings together high school students and adult mentors from countries across the Americas to promote mutual understanding, increase leadership skills, and prepare youth to make a difference in their communities. Exchanges are primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States, but also include delegations from the United States to select countries. Besides home stays with American families, students participated in workshops, community service activities, team building exercises, and meetings with community leaders. Upon their return home, students will apply what they have learned to implement projects that serve needs in their communities.
Intercultural and leadership trainings were hosted at CIEE and in collaboration with several local organizations including: the Telling Room, the Franco-American Collection at USM in Lewiston, the Gendron Franco Center for Heritage and Performing Arts, Cultivating Community, the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, Konbit Santé, and Rippleffect.
One activity for students and mentors was a visit to Lewiston to visit the Franco-American Collection at USM learn about the city’s Franco-American history. They learned about Maine's history of French-Canadian immigrants coming to the U.S. to find work at the mills, and they went on a guided tour of "petit Canada," a small portion of Lewiston that was home to many French-Canadians during the time of immigration.
In her article for Franco-American News and Culture, Juliana L’Heureux, writes of the Lewiston visit: "A charming anecdote occurred when the time came to take a group photograph. “How do you say ‘smile’, in French”, I asked them, in English? In a spontaneous unified chorus, they immediately replied, 'Chee-eeeese!' Our nations may be a continent apart, but we obviously communicated with ease, in French and in English."