Each July since 2014, Kansas City has welcomed a vibrant group of high school students from Mexico with the Jóvenes en Acción (Youth in Action) Program. This program, hosted by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, aims to connect high school students in Mexico with the skills necessary for success in leadership. Selected students spend a month in Kansas City to stay with a local host family and participate in daily activities that contribute to their capacity as change-makers in their communities. To accomplish this, the program’s curriculum is shaped around helping them develop community action projects that they are responsible for implementing once they return home. They use all of the tailored experiences in the United States to practice how to make their society better, in the hopes that it will extrapolate into a more prosperous world for everyone once this generation is at the forefront of global leadership.

In years past, these young leaders have seen and engaged with the true diversity of Kansas City. They explored themes of combatting domestic violence, helping with financial learning, and teaching English as a second language. By meeting with Kansas City-based organizations like Synergy Services, UMKC Office of Financial Literacy, and Don Bosco, participants immersed themselves in their program themes for experiential learning opportunities. Not only did these visits help expose Kansas City to new worldviews and perspectives, but the lessons learned ripple to other corners of the world.

Reflecting on past youth programs, it is easy to understand that the most impactful component is the inclusion of host families. Students stay in the homes of local hosts for two weeks, which transforms to a lifetime of memories. While the program participants may be engaged in meaningful activities throughout the day, it is in the evenings that the true growth occurs. Through dinner place conversations and family board game nights, youth from throughout the world can understand the cultural identity of families living in Kansas City – however diverse that may be.

While we may not be able to welcome visitors this summer, Global Ties KC is committed to keeping Kansas City engaged with the youth of the world through virtual formats. For instance, our most recent Global Spokes included a discussion on racism with youth leaders from seven different countries and future conversations will continue to include youth whenever possible.

Until we can host programs in person again, come join our virtual programming to connect with students and youth leaders from around the world. If you have any recommendations for including youth in virtual programming as well, send those our way. You won’t want to miss this!