Knight Life welcomes Youth Ambassadors from Brazil to the classroom to discuss culture, education and more


Credit: Hannah Locke

Knight Life reporter Wolfgang Madonia and Brazilian youth ambassador Amadeu Bezerra de Morais Neto talk with one another while on a tour of the school. Many Brazilian and American students were interested in the differences between schools in their respective countries.

Hannah Locke, Editor in Chief

Editor’s note: This story is part of the Global Ties Kalamazoo and Knight Life Series. On Jan. 17 and Jan. 23 Global Ties Kalamazoo’s Youth Ambassador program from Brazil visited Knight Life. These stories are a result of the students’ discussions with one another.

Whether you meet someone from a different country in your class or you go to a new country yourself, the chance to expand your educational horizons beyond your home country, through exchange programs, is, more often than not, invaluable. 

Global Ties Kalamazoo is an organization that promotes and arranges international exchange programs for students and adults from all over the world to come to Kalamazoo, Michigan for cultural and professional exchange. 

This past week, from Jan. 15 to Jan. 25, Global Ties Kalamazoo welcomed a group of Brazilian students to Kalamazoo, and Knight Life had the privilege of meeting with them for two of those days. 

“It was really nice to see and meet people our own age, especially coming from a different part of the world,” Foster Neve-Jones, a Knight Life reporter and Norrix senior said. “I think over the past few years there has been awful stuff in the news, so to meet some really awesome people from around the world, it was hopeful.”

The Brazilian students were a part of the Youth Ambassadors from Brazil program. Throughout their week in Kalamazoo, they attended a variety of talks, classes and businesses all to learn more about social entrepreneurship and leadership. The ambassadors ranged in age from 15 to 18 and went through an application process to get into the program. 

The application process was rigorous, through the United States Embassy in Brazil, and students had to submit essays, take an exam, and be interviewed. 

The ambassadors also all had to have community projects in Brazil. The projects ranged from education initiatives to women’s health.

“I wanted to come to the USA since I was a sixth grader, but my family didn’t have the money,” said Youth Ambassador Daniela Marques Ferreira. “When I discovered the program, I got interested. Who would’ve thought that a 100% free program, paid for by the US Embassy in Brazil, would be real?”

In their visit to Loy Norrix and the Knight Life classroom, many hoped to learn about how secondary education in America differed from Brazil and how they could take what they learned and implement it into their own schools and community projects. 

In Brazil students don’t get to choose their own classes and many were surprised that, at Norrix, there were classes like Journalism, that allowed students to explore their passions. Marques Ferreira reflected on this difference a lot. 

“I think that what I’ve probably learned, so much, is that we need to go and explore the things that we like,” Marques Ferreira said. “This way we can be more productive, we can learn more, we can search more and keep growing as a school, as a student, and as a person.”

During their visits, one on Jan. 17 and another on Jan. 23, Norrix students and the ambassadors spoke about a variety of topics in addition to education. Some talked about important cultural elements such as art, music and sports, while others spoke about activism and civil rights.

The discourse made both differences and similarities between the countries clear and Norrix students were able to learn more about Brazil, while the Brazilian students learned more about America. 

“I think exchange is important for youth coming here or for youth coming from the United States going to other countries because you have a fundamental altering of the lens through which you view the world,” said program organizer for the Youth Ambassadors, Jordan Blough Orr. 

Not only were the Brazilian youth able to learn about American high schools and cultures from Knight Life students, the ambassadors also attended a variety of discussions with community members and groups as well as classes at Western Michigan. They did a workshop at Read and Write Kalamazoo, participated in the MLK Day of Service at WMU, volunteered at Open Roads and much more. 

The program was primarily focused on social entrepreneurship. The ambassadors were here to learn about possible solutions and adjustments that they could make to their own initiatives back home. 

“We have very similar problems and we face those problems in very different ways and it has been important for them to learn different approaches and to learn different ways to deal with the same problems,” said Marcus Vinicius Lacerda Reis, the adult mentor of the group and an alumnus of the program.