September 3, 2013

Increasing Access to Education in Northern Brazil

In a remote community in Brazil’s northern region of Roraima, Wanderson Jackson is a dynamic and respected leader uniquely positioned to inspire youth in his community. Despite an economically challenged environment with limited access to resources, Wanderson taught himself English and organized Pro-Sport Dance, a drug awareness program for youth that reinforces the importance of education and constructive extracurricular activities, such as dance. This innovative program earned Wanderson an exchange with the U.S. Department of State-sponsored Youth Ambassadors Program.

The Youth Ambassadors Program had a profound, lasting impact on Wanderson’s personal life and professional development: “The exchange program completely changed my life. It made me seek new opportunities and explore the world. It made me love helping people do the best they can. This was an opportunity to show my potential, and show that hard work gives good results.” With knowledge gained from his exchange, at only 19, Wanderson is the founder and president of Youth 4 Change, a youth-led organization dedicated to expanding access to educational resources, developing young leaders, and promoting intercultural dialogue through programming and innovative technologies, with a particular focus on social media.

In July 2013, Wanderson organized Connection USA, a conference in Roraima, Brazil that emphasized the importance of English language skills and education, and trained local high school students how to develop sustainable public service projects. Wanderson called on his fellow Brazilian exchange alumni to serve as speakers for Connection USA. Alumni from the Science Camp for Girls, Youth Ambassadors, and the English Immersion Program (EIP) shared their unique program experiences with the Connection USA students who were then motivated to increase awareness about U.S. exchange programs in their own schools. In a state with a history of limited exchange participation with the United States, Wanderson will undoubtedly multiply the number of future exchange students from his region.

With an enticing employment offer in Austria and three university acceptances in the United States, Wanderson has instead chosen to combine his interest in technology with his passion for expanding access to education and technology in his community by beginning a course of study in computer engineering in Brazil at Fundação Centro de Analise de Pesquisa e Inovação Tecnológica (FUCAPI).

Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Throughout September, Wanderson Jackson is that outstanding alumnus and his work will be recognized on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website which caters to more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.