Day 4 for the Youth Studies study abroad team brings a visit to Pontificia Universidad and a youth participation discussion at CINDE.

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Today, the CUNY SPS Youth Studies Dream Team had a well-deserved “late start.” It was a cold morning yet some of us decided to do yoga led by Prof. Bishop at 7 am on the roof. The rest of us slept in and pigged out on our hotel breakfast buffet. Promptly at 8:30 am we got in our van driven by our VIP driver. As we chugged along through the steep hills of Bogotá, we took in the amazing vistas of the city. Our Dream Team arrived at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and was greeted by undergraduate scholars that are part of the Misión País Colombia.

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We began with a simple ice breaker that required us to use plastilína (clay) to mold our impressions of Colombia. Following our wonderful sculpture activity, we were asked to go around the classroom and look at some pictures to learn about Colombian history, cultural diversity, environment, economy and politics. We dove into those topics and then saw a video that documented the work of Misión País Colombia. Their mission is to work in conjunction with youth and communities in rural areas across Colombia to develop the tools and skills necessary to thrive in their communities. Two important elements in their program are to generate work and co-construct a course of action for their post-conflict social challenges. They stated “Nosotros no queremos ser los mejores, pero ser mejores para el mundo” (We don’t want to be better than anyone else but be better to change the world). Based on the testimonies in the video and from the students leading the workshop, it was clear that this volunteer program is transformative for the communities and student volunteers as well.

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Después del almuerzo, we hopped into our trusty van and headed back to CINDE to hear from experts about youth participation. The panelists were Martha Sofía Ardila Simpson and Alfredo Manrique Reyes. Martha stated that youth participation begins from infancia and has to be fostered through adulthood. Building tools and strategies is a process to deepen the level of participation in the lives of young people. Alfredo talked about the importance of participation as well, stating that there has to be solidarity in order to be impactful in the lives of young people. He highlighted exclusion by posing the question “How can you be part of a movement if you can’t be yourself?” We then watched a video on the Legión de Afección, an organization that recruits youth leaders from excluded communities to “make them visible.” La Legión aims to “find options for youth without options so they can fall in love with their lives.” This is done by incorporating arts such as music and dance to recognize strengths in young people while bringing various services to the community. Both speakers emphasized that true participation is putting power in the hands of young people.

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