New Funding Encourages Latin American-U.S. Student Exchanges

By Jane Morse | Staff Writer

Washington — U.S. Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry announced at a January 17 event at the State Department that $3.65 million has been raised to foster more student exchanges in Latin America and the United States.

The money will go to the 100,000 Strong in the Americas innovation fund. Its goal is to support study-abroad programs between the United States and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean by providing challenge grants to higher education institutions so they can strengthen their capacity to both send and host student-exchange participants.

Education, Kerry said, “is the great equalizer of the 21st century,” and the 100,000 Strong in the Americas program will help many young people realize their full potential.“I’m convinced that the greatest economic opportunity in the next 25 years is in this [Western] hemisphere,” Biden said, noting that 40 percent of U.S. exports now go to Latin American countries and the vast majority of the citizens of Latin America are now in the middle class. He also emphasized the need for greater people-to-people contact among the young people of the United States and Latin America.

The 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative was launched by President Obama in 2011 with the purpose of encouraging region-wide prosperity through greater international exchange of promising students.

Through this program, officials hope future leaders and innovators will better understand and be able to address common challenges such as citizen security, economic opportunity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

To implement the president’s vision, the U.S. State Department has established a public-private partnership with NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the world’s larg­est nonprofit association dedicated to international education, and Partners of the Americas, a leading development agency with more than 45 years of experience in the Americas.

At the January 17 event, Kerry recognized the fund’s initial donors, including ExxonMobil and Santander Universities, as part of the “Founding Circle,” and the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Foundation and the Ford Foundation as “Contributing Partners.” Also recognized were the recipients of the initial innovation fund grant competition.

The new funding complements the State Department’s core array of international educational programs. In partnership with governments throughout the region, the United States supports the Fulbright Program and other educational exchanges for students, scholars and teachers; provides students with accurate and comprehensive information about opportunities to study in the United States through the EducationUSA advising network; and provides opportunities for students to learn English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Other featured speakers included Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, who has spearheaded the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative for the Obama administration; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland; and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson.

Learn more by visiting 100,000 Strong in the Americas.