The California Central Coast Area Team of AFS Intercultural Programs announces that Santa Clarita, Calif., resident Tracy O’Garro has accepted the volunteer position of Sponsored Programs Cluster Coordinator. In this position, O’Garro will oversee program activities for high school exchange students who come to the California Central Coast Area Team through three U.S. Department of State scholarship programs, namely the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES), Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, and Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) programs.
The U.S. Department of State’s YES program originated after the events of September 11, 2001, with an aim to support meaningful opportunities for youth exchange as a key component to building bridges between citizens of the United States and countries around the world, particularly those with large Muslim populations. High school students from 37 countries receive merit-based YES program scholarships to live with American host families and attend U.S. high schools for one school year in communities across the country. The U.S. Department of State’s Congress-Bundestag program was established in 1983 to strengthen ties between the United States and Germany through citizen diplomacy, and the FLEX program established in 1992 provides merit-based scholarships to high school students from 21 countries in Eurasia.
Among other organizational and support duties, as the Sponsored Programs Cluster Coordinator O’Garro will work with area businesses, government institutions, community service organizations, and youth groups to plan and implement enrichment activities for the Area Team’s sponsored programs cluster. A “cluster” is made up of at least three sponsored programs students hosted within an area team. Currently, for the 2018-19 school year, the California Central Coast Area Team is hosting three YES program students from Nigeria, Gaza Strip, and South Africa.
A native of Adelaide, Australia, O’Garro has worked in the financial technology industry for 20 years, including in Adelaide, London, Chicago, and, since 2003, in the greater Los Angeles area. She currently is hosting a YES program student from Gaza Strip. O’Garro officially will assume the role of Sponsored Programs Cluster Coordinator upon arrival of the new sponsored programs students in August 2019, after a period of transition from the team’s current coordinator, Allison Barton of Camarillo, Calif. An AFS returnee and active volunteer, Barton serves as the California Central Coast Area Team Chair, Orientation Coordinator, and Support Coordinator.
The California Central Coast Area Team of AFS Intercultural Programs includes Ventura County, San Luis Obispo County, the Santa Clarita Valley, and surrounding communities. The team is seeking host families for both traditional and sponsored programs students arriving to the area in August 2019. For more information, interested individuals are invited to visit www.afsusa.org/host-family/, call regional AFS staff at 805-750-1824, or follow the area team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AFSCCCTeam