High school group from Latin America visiting campus

Saint Michael's students and faculty have good conversations and fun in two languages during Friday events in Farrell Room, Alliot

December 2, 2022
By Elizabeth Syverson '23

In collaboration with the Georgetown Center for Intercultural Education and the Vermont Council on World Affairs, Saint Michael’s hosted two dozen high school students from a variety of Latin American and Caribbean countries including Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela.


Some of the visiting group talk to Friday morning’s gathering in the Farrell Room. (photos by Patrick Bohan)

The students visited Vermont as part of the Latin American Youth Ambassadors Program, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. The program aims to provide these Youth Ambassadors with an opportunity to develop civic leadership and community development skills through interactions with peers and civic leaders.

The College’s Center for Global Engagement organized an informal gathering between Saint Michael’s Spanish-speaking students and the Youth Ambassadors on Friday, December 2 from 11 a.m. to noon in the Farrell Room.

With varying levels of English ability among the Ambassadors, the gathering began with the Saint Michael’s students introducing themselves in Spanish. From there, the students formed small groups to talk about various family, lifestyle, cuisine, and climate differences between the two regions. The groups spoke a mix of Spanish and English, giving all students the opportunity to practice their language skills.

In one group, when a student asked the question, “¿Te gusta bailar?” (Do you like to dance?) the tone of the gathering changed completely. Two ambassadors first showed off their merengue skills, a popular dance in the Caribbean, which then evolved into a whole group dance lesson. Playing music from their phones, Saint Michael’s students and Youth Ambassadors alike assembled in the center of the room to learn the steps to a different popular dance of the region.


A speaker Friday gestures to make a point from the audience.

Peter Vantine, chair and associate professor of classical and modern languages and literatures at the College, said in more detail, the VCWA Youth Ambassadors Program Goals, are:

  • Learn and Experience: Youth Ambassadors study community development, civic engagement, and leadership theories through a training program abroad.
  • Interact: Youth Ambassadors engage with US-American culture through interactions with peers and visits to important change-making organizations.
  • Empower: Youth Ambassadors develop leadership skills to become civic activists in their home communities and to support other youth in developing these skills
  • Implement: Youth Ambassadors gain hands-on experience through the program to design and implement follow-on outreach and service activities in their home communities.

The visitors had a tour of campus in Spanish led by one of the department’s advanced students on Thursday, Dec. 1, and after the Friday Farrell Room gathering, lunch in Alliot with students and faculty.


Jeffrey Ayres, director of the Center for Global engagement, left, stands with some group leaders in the Farrell Room Friday.

At the lunch, Saint Michael’s students and the Ambassadors again had the chance to converse in their language of choice. The students swapped popular sites to visit in their hometowns, and even shared the pesky animals who steal from them while at the beach. A group of Costa Rican Ambassadors said that for them, monkeys are typically the culprits, to which Saint Michael’s students responded that seagulls are the East Coast equivalent, a bird the Ambassadors had never heard of before.

In speaking with Education and Spanish double major Erin Candy ’23 after the event, she couldn’t stress enough how enriching and fun the experience was. “It was so cool getting to know these amazing students and practice my Spanish skills. Living in Vermont, sometimes it’s hard to find native speakers to practice with, so this was a really great experience all around,” she said.


Clapping for some presenters, including Peter Vantine in the background right.

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