Do you remember your first time on a plane? How about the first time you wandered the streets of another country, or found yourself face to face with a wonder of the world? These are some of the stories we heard from an extraordinary group of community college students who traveled abroad this summer — free of charge — through the Mayor’s Young Ambassador Initiative (MaYA), at a launch event hosted by the Getty House Foundation.
Established by Mayor Garcetti’s Office of International Affairs, MaYA’s goal is to connect young Angelenos with the international community, and expose them to global opportunities at home and abroad. To kick off the program, 23 students who qualify for free tuition under L.A.’s College Promise spent a week in Mexico and Egypt zip-lining over waterfalls, riding camels among the Great Pyramids, volunteering at an orphanage for children with disabilities, and making friends from all walks of life. But traveling abroad left them with more than great memories — the Young Ambassadors returned to Los Angeles as confident, engaged representatives of our City, with a new international perspective that will guide them for years to come.
MaYA’s debut comes two years after stakeholders and student leaders gathered here with the Getty House Foundation to celebrate the launch of L.A.’s College Promise, an historic pledge to make community college tuition-free for every hardworking LAUSD graduate. While the program so far has been a tremendous success for the Garcetti Administration, it’s always had a two-fold mission: to put higher education in reach for every Angeleno, and to give L.A.’s students all of the life-changing opportunities that accompany a college education. “Traveling abroad shouldn’t just be for students from certain economic backgrounds,” said First Lady Amy Elaine Wakeland. “All young people should have the chance to be exposed to new ideas and innovations,” — and experience the unique languages, cultures, and societies that exist beyond our borders.
There was plenty to celebrate, but also so much to look forward to — in January, the next group of Young Ambassadors will head to Japan, as part of MaYA’s goal to send 100 College Promise students abroad in 2019. American Airlines has also graciously stepped up to become MaYA’s official airline partner — sponsoring flights for all trips for the next five years.
For more information, and to apply future travel programs, visit LAMayor.org/MaYA.
Young Ambassador Student Panelists:
- Griselda Mendoza, Los Angeles City College
- Elizabeth Lopez, Pierce College
- Iman Elijah Zeinali, Pierce College
- Cassandra Camorlinga, Los Angeles Valley College