Summer of Service in the Dominican Republic

Summer of Service in the Dominican Republic
Posted on 05/16/2019
Summer of Service in the Dominican Republic

A summer of service in the Dominican Republic is on the horizon for Melanie Soto, a junior at Badger High School who has been selected as a Youth Ambassador with the Center for Intercultural Education and Development. Through the DREAMproject, Melanie will work side by side with mentors, other youth and Dominicans to implement community betterment projects in high poverty areas.

Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State, the project seeks to address the most challenging issues in high poverty communities.  
The program goals, as defined by the U.S. Department of State, are:

  • To develop a cadre of young adults who have a strong sense of civic responsibility, a commitment to community development, an awareness of current & global issues, and strong interpersonal leadership skills;
  • To foster relationships among youth from different ethnic, religious, and national groups; and
  • To promote mutual understanding, respect, and collaboration between the United States and our Western Hemisphere counterparts.

 “The Youth Ambassadors Program brings together high school students and adult mentors from across the Western Hemisphere to promote mutual understanding, increase leadership skills, and prepare youth to make a difference in their communities,” according to their website. Melanie fits their parameters to a T. Her passion to make a difference heightened with her first experience in Leadership Dynamics her freshman year at Badger and led her to apply for this scholarship program.  

“The Leadership Dynamics classes at Badger really helped me with formulating plans to help others and benefit my community,” Melanie explained. She went on to take Leadership Dynamics her sophomore year, as well. 

Getting a scholarship to participate in this program was no surprise to her French teacher, Susan Schmidt. “Melanie was my student as a freshman (and sophomore) for French I and French II,” Schmidt said. “I have known her for three years and she was one of those students that always was responsible and considerate of others no matter the circumstance.” 

Melanie, who speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, is eager to use her linguistic skills while in the Dominican Republic. “Although I’m fluent in Spanish already, I think the hardest part of this trip will be understanding the fast Dominican dialect; however, in return, I’ll be surrounded by some of the most selfless, brilliant minds in the country who are all working towards a common goal,” she said. That goal is to create the next generation of leaders and to create a network of engaged citizens throughout the Caribbean. Her personal goals are to step out of her comfort zone and to implement a change that will benefit the community in which she will be staying.

The application process, which included four essays, evaluated on the following factors:

  • a demonstrated interest in and commitment to volunteer and civic activities; 
  • ability to work cooperatively in diverse groups and tolerate the opinions of others; 
  • leadership potential; 
  • good social and communication skills; 
  • good academic performance; 
  • an energetic, positive attitude; and 
  • ability to implement projects that benefit the applicant’s school and/or community.

Melanie said she was surprised to be selected. “Taking into account the fact that this is a nationwide scholarship and that I am the first student from Badger to apply, I did not think my chances were high,” she said. “When I found out I was selected, it was surreal.”

During her two-week stay in the Dominican Republic, Melanie will live with a host family. Her days are fully scheduled with social entrepreneurship, environmental activities, leadership and civic engagement, cultural activities and time for reflection. 

Melanie will come back to Badger for her senior year. Her future goals are to learn two more languages and work for social justice or environmental protection.

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