Remarks at Jóvenes en Acción Closing Ceremony

Welcome friends!

It gives me great pleasure to be with you today at the closing ceremony for the fifth generation of the Jóvenes en Acción program.

I would like to welcome:

Undersecretary for Secondary Education Rodolfo Tuirán, Undersecretary for North America Sergio Alcocer, SEP’s Director General for International Affairs, Ambassador Socorro Rovirosa, and our many private sector partners who make this program possible.

And, of course, welcome to all our young leaders who have just finished implementing your community projects. I am sure the program has had a permanent positive impact on both your personal and academic lives over the past year, and I look forward to meeting with you shortly to learn all about your experiences and projects.

Jóvenes en Acción does not end today, a fact to which our many alumni can testify. You have joined Mexico’s cadre of young leaders committed to positive social change. Among our guests here this morning, I am happy to note that there are also alumni from past generations who I know are still very active in social projects.  That’s because once you see the rewards of giving back to your own communities, it is very difficult to ever become complacent again. And that’s a blessing.  That’s the reason that this program is such a critical building block in the success of our region.

For all 102 of you completing the program today, I’d like you to reflect on all you have accomplished. You successfully competed in the selection process.  You participated in a month of homestays and courses last summer in the U.S.  You made new friends and experienced new cultures that I am sure have changed your lives.  And you came back to Mexico with stronger leadership skills and successfully implemented projects confronting social issues at home. Think of all the obstacles you overcame to achieve your successes. Think about the mentors – school, embassy, private sector – and your cohort who helped you face challenges like fundraising and finding creative ways to engage your audience. Think about the people whose lives you touched with your positive messages of empowerment and alternate visions to violence, drugs, and alcohol.  You have made a difference, and we are all very proud of what you have accomplished.

Your success is your family’s success, your community’s success, and our region’s success.  And now you stand ready to translate this experience into a lifetime of leadership and cross-cultural understanding.

Many of you are graduating high school this year and are considering college studies. In fact, I know that some of you will take your college admission exam right after this event. I want to encourage you to think about returning to the United States and studying at a university there.  You now have the English skills to succeed in an American university; more importantly, you have the self-confidence to know that you can achieve anything that you set out to do.

Thanks to outstanding initiatives like 100,000 Strong in the Americas and our two governments’ Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research, studying in the U.S. is easier now than ever before. You could study abroad for a semester, take an English summer course, apply for undergraduate studies or, later down the road, pursue a Fulbright – Garcia Robles scholarship for graduate studies in the U.S. It is never too early to begin thinking about these possibilities. The embassy and consulates across Mexico offer resources such as the Benjamin Franklin Library and other American Spaces where you can consult with EducationUSA advisors and COMEXUS about opportunities to study in the U.S.  And many of our centers offer English conversation clubs to maintain the excellent language proficiency you developed over the past year.

I remember how excited I was when I applied to university, thinking of the possibilities and adventures that lay before me. I would like you to remember that for the rest of your lives, you can and must continue your good works and community service.  It’s no accident that you have chosen team names such as ‘Make it happen,’ and ‘Don’t give up, keep up.’ They are great phrases to keep you motivated and focused, and to shape the rest of your lives. History is full of examples of young people just like yourselves who were determined to make a difference in their world and who did make a difference.  From scientists to teachers to doctors to poets and artists, they dedicated themselves to pursuing their dreams, and, in doing so, they changed the course of history.  Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Bill Gates or Alfonso García Robles or Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz or Malala Yousafzai.  And think about yourself and the place that you too can occupy in history.  And know that so many of us will be ready to support you each step of the way.

I would like to conclude this morning recognizing not only the hard work and dedication of the 102 Jóvenes en Acción, but also the strong cooperation between the governments of Mexico, the United States, the private sector, you, and not to forget – your mentors. Thanks to your continued, generous support for this innovative program, we will soon be welcoming its sixth generation to be selected from over 1200 individual applicants – the greatest demand we have seen yet!

I would also like to thank our implementing partners from COMEXUS, World Learning and Lamat for helping us execute Jóvenes en Acción, which started in 2010 as what was supposed to be a one-time summer program for 50 Mexican high school students and look at where we are now! In five years the program has touched nearly 400 students from 25 states across Mexico. We look forward to welcoming many more students in coming years.

I would now like to invite Undersecretary Tuirán to share a few words before we enjoy breakfast.

Thank you.