Central American youth visit with host families
MADISON, HUNTSVILLE – Twenty teenagers from Central America are visiting schools, a food pantry and museums this week and are hosted by the International Services Council (ISC) of Alabama.
ISC youth leadership programs intend to advance mutual understanding between the United States and other countries, ISC Executive Director Jacqui Shipe said.
The high schools students live in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador and are affiliated with Central America Youth Ambassadors program.
“The (ambassadors’) mission is to prepare young people to become informed citizens and leaders who are active in their communities and take a role in community development,” Shipe said. In addition, the ambassadors program increases the youth’s understanding of entrepreneurship.
They board with American host families for first-hand introductions to this country’s culture, social customs, politics and economics, Shipe said.
Madison Mayor Troy and Dana Trulock are one of 16 host families in Madison and Huntsville. These families “welcomed the students and their four mentors into their homes for one week” beginning Oct. 1 when they arrived at Huntsville International Airport, Shipe said.
That evening, the students completed orientation at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel. During the week, they met with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and other city officials. At Columbia High School, they had discussions with International Baccalaureate students.
For three hours, they visited Manna House, which distributes bags of food on first-come, first-serve basic to needy individuals. During driving tours, the Central American youth traveled to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
The group toured the University of Alabama in Huntsville and attended sessions dealing with leadership and civic engagement, Shipe said. One day was devoted to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
ISC was founded in 1965 when international military personnel trained at Redstone Arsenal but lacked any after-hours interaction. Huntsville Rotary Club convinced the Huntsville mayor and council and county commissioners about this need. ISC is aligned with the Department of State.
In 52 years, ISC has coordinated more than 80,000 visitors. For more information, visit iscalabama.org or Facebook/ISC Alabama.