Youth is not only the future, youth is the present; and we, at Atlas Corps, acknowledged this at the recent VI Young Americas Forum.

Photo by Michael McCabe. From left to right: Jorge Delgado, Atlas Corps Fellow Michelle Zapata (Class 44, Mexico) and Gabriela Perez-Albarracin.

Last week the VI Young Americas Forum was held in the city of Los Angeles, CA as part of the IX Summit of the Americas, with the focus of “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future”.

The Young Americas Forum is the “participation platform for young people in the Americas to be actively involved… in the Summits of the Americas, the OAS General Assemblies, and other high-level meetings. The Forum is a permanent, open, and inclusive channel that allows young people to contribute, define priorities, and coordinate action in the continent” (Young Americas Business Trust, 2022).

As a relevant actor in leveraging young talents across the globe to solve the most pressing social issues, Atlas Corpswas present as a speaker! And as an active Fellow (Class 44) from the region, I had the opportunity not only to represent Atlas Corps but my country Mexico 🇲🇽 as well in front of approximate 300 young social leaders from the Americas.

I presented Atlas Corps model and impact, as well as my volunteering story at the panel “Community and National Youth Service: A vision from the field”, alongside fellow panelists Carol Spahn, CEO at Peace Corps; Celina de Sola, Co-founder and President at Glasswing (Host Organization at Atlas Corps), Gabriela Perez-Albarracin, California Disaster Team Program Manager at AmeriCorps; Jorge Delgado, Program Manager at Peace Corps Peru; and moderator Michael McCabe, Regional Director for Inter-America and Pacific Region at Peace Corps.

Photo by Michael McCabe. From left to right: Jorge Delgado, Michael McCabe, Gabriela Perez-Albarracin, Carol Spahn, Celina de Sola and Atlas Corps Fellow Michelle Zapata (Class 44, Mexico).

During this panel, we addressed different streams of youth volunteer service including community-based, school-based, faith-based, national service, and global service – as in the case of Atlas Corps, and how these models have a huge impact on transforming communities!

During my participation I shared a little bit about my volunteering experience journey through these different streams of service, starting at school-based models through the Amnesty International university chapter at my campus, and moving to community-based later with TECHO, and national service later on with Children International, to mention some. I then procedded to share with youth the following three key advice on how to pursue a career in global service:

  1. Your career should be a thread of options, be flexible and take chances! Don’t be scared to take opportunities outside your pathway!
  2. Volunteer locally and nationally first, and learn about the issues you are passionate about!
  3. Many times the best resource to volunteer and learn about social issues is at your college/university, explore and take advantage of those connections! 
Photo by Red Cross California – AmeriCorps. Atlas Corps Fellow Michelle Zapata (Class 44, Mexico) speaking at the VI Young Americas Forum.

I also addressed the systemic barriers that developing countries still face that prevent Latinamerican and Caribbean youth from participating in such service models, and how, at Atlas Corps, we are changing that, by bringing talent, leadership, and valuable knowledge from developing countries to the U.S. As well, global service models such as Atlas Corps helps break down barriers among countries, cultures, and people by immersing global young leaders into local communities in the U.S. and creating an intercultural exchange between local residents and international fellows. 

To finalize my participation I encouraged the young attendees to take our privilege into action, whether through global service models like ours, or others, as we, youth, are not only the future, but we are actually the PRESENT.

During the rest of the 2-days Forum, global and government leaders also addressed the youth; some highlights include one of the messages by the President of Peru, Pedro Castillo, who acknowledged the power of youth activism, and how

“Youth should no be the ones existing on the streets, protesting for their rights… there should not be barriers or frontiers for youth to thrive”. 

Pedro Castillo, President of Peru.

As well, I highlight one of the messages by the Minister of Foreign Relations of Panama, Erica Mouynes, who, when asked about her opinion on the unhopeful vision of youth about the future, mentioned that she shared that same unhopeful vision, as

“The ones who make the decisions will most likely not live the horrible consequences of this frightening future”,

Erica Mouynes, Minister of Foreign Relations of Panama.

and then proceed to share how her country was including youth in climate change policies and decision making.

Watch the recorded transmission of Atlas Corps’ participation at the VI Young Americas Forum below.

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