Senior Traveled to Brazil for Summer Exchange

September 21, 2012
Cleveland Heights, OH

Zoe with other American students and Brazilian Student Ambassadors in Salvador, Brazil.

Senior Zoe Cook was one of thirteen students nationally and three from Ohio who were chosen for a three-week student exchange in Brazil. The Youth Ambassadors program promotes understanding between the people of the US and Brazil, prepares teens to be leaders, and fosters relationships between different ethnic and religious groups and creates networks of young leaders.

The trip began with two days of orientation with US embassy staff in Washington, DC, followed by three days in Brazilia, the capital of Brazil. They met several of the Brazilian diplomatic staff and, “That is where we were really introduced to the Brazilian culture,” said Zoe. Brazilian Young Ambassadors helped guide the American students.

The majority of the trip was spent with host families; Zoe’s family lives on the Atlantic coast in Salvador, Brazil’s third largest city. “My host family was so kind and welcoming,” she said. Her host sister spoke English, but the rest of the family did not. “I learned a little Portuguese, but only a little!”

Part of the experience was to learn the work of several non-profit organizations in Brazil. The students toured several favelas – neighborhoods with concentrations of poverty. The students learned about programs to address improving education and decreasing drug use and violence.

“This was really a life changing experience for me,” said Zoe. “I learned so much about the people and culture of Brazil – we really broke down our stereotypes about each other.”

Zoe is a member of the Minority Student Achievement Network and heard one of the MSAN advisors present the opportunity at a meeting. “Zoe is a quiet leader who is very interested in community service,” he said. “We are really proud that she was chosen for this experience.”

Zoe plans to be involved with the Young Ambassadors program when Brazilian teens come to Cleveland this winter. She will apply to Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati, she plays field hockey, is on the swim team, student council and National Honor Society, and is a peer tutor.

Young Ambassadors is supported by the Cleveland Council of World Affairs and the US State Department.