The Youth Ambassadors Program and Community Learning Network
By Serina Padgett – 7th Grade Student, St. Michael’s High School, Santa Fe
Learn, explore, volunteer, train. These are things the Community Learning Network’s Santa Fe Youth Ambassadors program offers as part of its “Love Where We Live” initiative. The New Mexico-born, locally based nonprofit is dedicated to “building stronger communities through real-life learning in real-life places with real people.”
CLN provides opportunities for small groups of middle-school, high-school and college students to learn about Santa Fe’s unique and amazing qualities. This helps students discover what is valuable about our community and the people who live here. The program helps students understand why certain things that often go unnoticed are important.
In addition to a walk-about in Santa Fe’s historic district or along Canyon Road, CLN facilitates diverse off-the-beaten-path learning experiences that focus on regional history, cultural heritage preservation and issues such as water conservation. CLN works with other community organizations to coordinate opportunities such as learning about food security through a visit to the Food Depot, where volunteers prepare to deliver donated food supplies to the needy.
As we’ve often heard, “The best way to learn is by doing.” Other interesting, off-the-beaten-path learning adventures CLN offers include hands-on activities and interactions with community educators who are engaged in issues and projects in our region such as growing food or replastering an adobe church. These kinds of activities are fun for students and can also be a way of bringing people together to strengthen a sense of belonging and connectedness as a community.
While participating in these adventures, students keep personal learning logs, take a regional history survey, and create a culminating project that reflects what they have learned. Upon the completion of the program, they receive a certificate stating that they are official Youth Ambassadors.
I am interested in this program because I enjoy learning about and preserving our culture. I believe that is very important. I believe this program will benefit future generations because our community will grow stronger. The program inspires a desire to keep Santa Fe’s oldest buildings and artifacts preserved and supports passing on traditions and cultures to future generations. We can learn important life lessons, meet new people and get to know fellow community members better. The program values the participation, voices and opinions of young people and demonstrates that we can make a difference, too.
Santa Fe has a rich history, and there is much to learn about our city. The Youth Ambassadors program encourages students to get involved in the community. Adults are also invited to participate and may want to volunteer, make a donation or help sponsor the development of Youth Ambassadors in Santa Fe. To learn more about the program or get involved, visit www.sfyouthambassadors.org or www.communitylearningnetwork.org
EDITOR’S NOTE: Serina Padgett is 13 years old. She has dedicated this article to her English teacher, Roseanne Noedel, who passed away from kidney cancer last month. “In the short trimester I spent with her, through her various ways of teaching, she taught us many things we couldn’t see for ourselves,” Serina said. “I really can’t thank her enough. She was very motivational to many of us.”