I've had many people ask me to share some information on the program or organization that is making this Samoan exchange possible so here is a quick overview:
The program is called the American Youth Leadership Program, or AYLP. AYLP is funded by the US State Department through their Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs. The intent of AYLP is to offer US teens (between ages 15 and 17) the opportunity to travel abroad, gain firsthand experience in a foreign culture, and examine issues that have significance on a global scale. This is accomplished through a 3 to 4 week exchange that includes family homestays, community service, leadership training, and other educational and cultural opportunities in country.
Each AYLP program is different, as they have different global destinations and different focus areas. Each program is also organized by a different entity around the United States (a school district, a nonprofit organization, etc.) so no two programs are identical.
The program I am fortunate to be involved with is being organized by the University of Wyoming. UW received funding to complete an AYLP trip to Mongolia each year for the past 2 years, and this year they are focusing on Samoa. All of the participants are from one of the 13 Western states and had to go through an application and interview process to be selected. Each participant (myself included) has a requirement to complete follow-on activities after our return to relate the learning we experienced in Samoa back to our schools and communities in the United States.
In addition to our 22 teen participants, there are 5 adults going to Samoa next week. Warren, Jake, Stacy, Alexis and I provide oversight, support, and assure the teen participants have a positive learning experience. And, while in Samoa are also immersed in our own exchange. We get to participate in host family homestays, experience leadership and cultural training, and complete community service activities alongside the youth participants. We are ALL in this program to experience and learn from the unique Samoan culture, and return to the United States with skills and experiences to share.
The AYLP program website offers more information, including stories of previous AYLP participants. You can check it out at: http://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/american-youth-leadership-program