This past December, Centro in partnership with the Puerto Rican Day Parade, ASPIRA, Comite Noviembre, Borimix and other partners launched the Cultural Ambassador Program. During the Parades & Festivals conference, Dr. Raquel Ortiz, a Puerto Rican Day Parade Board of Director's member who has been working on developing much of the curriculum and other materials for the program, made a short presentation introducing the youth educational initiative (watch video of the entire presentation by clicking here). The program would be developed as a national partnership of youth, cultural and educational institutions, and community leaders. In the following Q&A, Dr. Ortiz offers insight into the overall aims of the program and why it can become an important tool for our communities, both stateside and on the island.
CV: What is the elevator pitch for the cultural ambassador program?
Dr. Ortiz: Centro has created free educational materials available online which includes a documentary series, a poster series, open courseware, and more; along with resources for schools and institutions that work with youth to teach them about Puerto Rican history and culture, as well as to encourage our young people to get involved with and in our communities.
CV: Who is the ideal candidate to enroll in the program?
Dr. Ortiz: Right now, we’re targeting high school and college students, as well as the individuals who work with these audiences. However, the program is open to all who are interested in becoming certified as a cultural ambassador (there are three levels in total). Soon, we’ll also be developing materials for elementary and middle school that teachers and parents can use with younger children.
CV: What is your hope for participants in the program?
Dr. Ortiz: We hope that our cultural ambassadors learn about their history and culture AND become active participants in their communities. We understand that it’s not enough to study and learn about Puerto Rican history and culture. Our young people need to be given a voice and invited to become a part of identifying problems, creating solutions, and helping to building institutions within our communities.
CV: Are there any educational models that have helped shape the program?
Dr. Ortiz: Yes, we’ve studied educational models created by
one of our partners, such as ASPIRA and El Puente, and are using their cultural development and leadership modules as part of our curriculum. Also, we are interested in partnering with more institutions and sharing curriculum and best practices.
CV: Why is it important to launch this program in this present moment?
Dr. Ortiz: In light of Puerto Rico’s ongoing debt crisis, we think it is critical for all Puerto Ricans to unite and work together toward solutions. And what better way to accomplish that goal than by promoting youth-oriented educational initiatives and making a lasting commitment to giving our young people a voice and a seat at the table?
The Cultural Ambassador Program is an ongoing initiative with more materials and information to be released soon, including additional documentaries on important figures such as Julia de Burgos, Clemente Soto Vélez, Bobby Sanabria, Rafael Hernández, and more.
To learn more about the Cultural Ambassadors Program and to register, please click here.