AFS students greet President Obama on his arrival in Costa Rica

AFS Costa Rica students stand with President Obama and Franklin Chang Diaz.

May 7, 2013 | New York, NY - Last Friday, Costa Ricans were glued to their TV screens watching President Barack Obama arrive for his first official visit in the country. AFSers in Costa Rica couldn’t believe their eyes when four AFS students greeted the President after he bounded down the stairs of Air Force One.

For security reasons, the U.S. President’s visit was not disclosed to the public, so news of the AFS students’ participation on the welcoming committee came as a complete surprise.

The four teenagers - Bryan, Genesis, Katherine and John - are recipients of the Franklin Chang Scholarship and will complete AFS' year-long high school study abroad program in the U.S. this coming year. The new scholarship helps local high school students with strong science skills continue their science studies in the U.S. It is sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica and administered by AFS Costa Rica. 

The students were joined at CRC International Airport by Dr. Franklin Chang, after whom the scholarship is named. Dr. Chang is a Costa Rican-born NASA astronaut and scientist.

During the welcome ceremony the students told the media that President Obama asked to take a photo with them after they explained that they would be studying abroad the U.S.

“These four kids are living their ‘15 minutes of fame’ right now,” said Raul Montero, Director of Programs at AFS Costa Rica. “Very quickly we started receiving phone calls from the major media outlets in our country asking who these four kids are and why they were selected to receive the president.”

President Obama traveled to Costa Rica to meet with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. The two leaders reaffirmed friendship and economic ties between the two countries and expressed a common interest in maintaining peace, freedom, democracy and respect for human rights.  

Already, Bryan, Genesis, Katherine and John are cultural ambassadors, taking on this role as they prepare for their exchange year abroad. We will be wishing them luck this Fall as they embark on their journey to the US. – a journey that will surely be the experience of a lifetime.