Jacob Esquivel, 15, will spend three weeks living with a host family
and learning about local culture, visiting schools, volunteering
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (April 11, 2016) — Instead of just relaxing and enjoying a break from studying and homework, Kauffman School student Jacob Esquivel spent the Thanksgiving holiday last fall writing and revising his application for a competitive international exchange program. He even met with one of his teachers at a coffee shop to get direct feedback on one of the trickier essays.
Looks like all that hard work paid off. Esquivel, a ninth-grader, is one of only eight students in the country to be selected for the Youth Ambassadors Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by World Learning.
Esquivel, 15, will spend April 23-May 14 in either Argentina or Chile, where he will live with a host family and experience the culture of South America by meeting with community leaders, visiting schools, sightseeing and participating in service projects.
“I was in the middle of a debate tournament when I found out I made it,” Esquivel said. “The email came at the last moment. I had my teacher read the email first and she kept a neutral face. Then she said, ‘You got it.’ I just yelled so loud, the other kids were staring at me. I felt so excited and emotional. It was really special.”
Esquivel says he learned about the Youth Ambassadors Program during a community fair at the Kauffman School. Global Ties KC had a booth at the fair and shared information about the program.
“Jacob is one of our hardest working students,” said Kauffman School CEO Hannah Lofthus. “We value setting up our students to have culturally enriching leadership opportunities because we know how critical it is for our students’ understanding of their world. We are excited for Jacob to bring his experience and reflections back to our school community.”
The application process included writing five essays, three in English and two in Spanish. He was asked to address his leadership qualifications, what skills he would like to gain during the exchange and what problem in his community he would like to address.
“I chose to address gun violence in Kansas City,” said Esquivel. “I hear so much about gun violence, and I worry a lot that someday it will affect someone close to me. I want to help be a part of the solution.”
Part of the exchange program’s goals is to give the students skills they can use when they return to implement projects to serve the needs of their communities.
Esquivel also was interviewed over Skype by program leaders in Washington, D.C., and in person by local program representatives. The interviews were in English and Spanish, which Esquivel is studying at school. He said he’s looking forward to learning about the culture of South America, trying new food and hearing about local traditions.
“I’ve only experienced American culture, so I’m really excited to learn something new,” he said. “I want to see how I am different from them, but also how we are the same.”
The Kauffman School motto is creating college graduates, and the school focuses on ensuring each one of its students not only graduates from high school but also completes a postsecondary degree. Right now, Esquivel, whose favorite subjects are theater, biology and world geography, has his heart set on attending the University of Miami to study marine biology. But he’s also considered the possibility of studying criminal justice and joining the Kansas City police department. (He has a few years to make up his mind.) Esquivel has attended the Kauffman School since fifth grade.
He is the son of Sergio Esquivel and Elizabeth Salinas. Outside of school, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends.
Students who are interested in learning more or applying for Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), U.S. Department of State scholarships can visit http://exchanges.state.gov or http://exchanges.state.gov/us/high-school.
About the Ewing Marion Kauffman School
The Kauffman School is a rigorous college preparatory school founded in 2011 by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The mission of the Kauffman School is to prepare students to excel academically, graduate from college and apply their unique talents in the world to create economically independent and personally fulfilling lives. For more information, visit kauffmanschool.org.