Volunteers representing 20 national AFS organizations have been awarded scholarships to support their participation in the 29th Session of the AFS Youth Assembly (August 16-18, 2024 in New York City). These AFS volunteers underwent a competitive selection process to join the AFS Youth Assembly. They will play a key role in organizing the event and delivering a seamless experience to Youth Assembly Delegates.

This session of The Youth Assembly is the third one organized by AFS Intercultural Programs, a global non-profit that provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world. AFS has 55 national organizations worldwide whose work largely relies on volunteers—people of all ages and backgrounds who are committed to fostering global citizenship in their communities and the world.

Meet these outstanding young people below!

The Youth Assembly is accepting applications for more volunteers to support our event through May 31, 2024. Apply now!

Laurence Côté

AFS Canada, 29 years old

Laurence is a dedicated volunteer with AFS, having held various roles since 2016. She has served as a host family, a liaison contact for 11 participants, a national-level facilitator for pre-departure camps, a local-level facilitator, an online facilitator, a mentor for ICL, a local responsible for orientation at the chapter level, and a sending participant interviewer. Laurence’s commitment to AFS is evident in her active involvement, and she has been recognized as a valuable volunteer.

In 2023, Laurence was awarded a scholarship to participate in the Global Educators Academy, and this experience encouraged her to want to support the event’s logistics. As a teacher, Laurence works with newcomers to Canada, immigrants, and refugees, bringing her passion for intercultural learning into her professional life. Laurence is known for her organizational skills, her ability to connect with people, and her boundless energy. She is a reliable team player who can be counted on without hesitation.


Beatriz González Acuña

AFS Costa Rica, 24 years old

Since returning from her AFS exchange, Beatriz has been deeply engaged in various roles at a local and national level. She’s currently the deputy coordinator of the National Orientations Group and a contact person at the local chapter of San José East.

Beatriz has a proven track record of organizing and facilitating large-scale events, demonstrating exceptional skills in logistics, preparation, and execution. Her experience includes leading AFS orientation camps for exchange students, coordinating Orientation Group Commission meetings, and assisting in organizing volunteer days. Outside of AFS, Beatriz has collaborated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica on significant events, such as the Conference on the Social and Humanitarian Impact of Autonomous Weapons in Costa Rica.

Beatriz views AFS as a second home, a place where she finds purpose and joy in contributing to making the world a better place. She believes deeply in the AFS mission and vision and has strived to promote it since her early days as a volunteer.


Mauricio Vargas Ortiz

AFS Costa Rica, 29 years old

Mauricio currently serves on the Board of AFS Costa Rica, the National Orientations Group and is the president of his local chapter. He has also spent the last year actively working with the National Office, creating marketing content for AFS Costa Rica’s social media and other design-related items. His executive duties have included orchestrating local orientation activities, managing teams of volunteers, overseeing Host Family interviews, and directing the chapter’s operations.

Mauricio has also led a pioneering initiative to create local branding for the local chapters and national commissions of AFS Costa Rica. He contributed to design-related tasks, streamlined visual and graphic standards, developed training content, managed CRC’s social media, formulated marketing campaigns, and standardized graphic lines. These endeavors laid the groundwork for a Merchandising Line, furthering CRC’s mission of providing scholarships to students and 18+ participants through their Scholarship Fund.

Mauricio’s journey in AFS since 2013 reflects exceptional leadership and impact. He has evolved from roles within the San José West Chapter to contributing significantly at the national level.


Javiera Hormazábal Droguett

AFS Chile, 24 years old

Javiera’s journey with AFS began in 2016 when she embarked on a year-long exchange to the United States. Upon her return, she became an active volunteer for AFS Chile, playing a crucial role as a contact volunteer and contributing significantly to the areas of support, sending, and communications. She currently serves as a contact person and national trainer for AFS Chile and volunteers in the support, sending, and marketing areas.

Javiera’s skills and experiences in managing massive events are evident in her current role as a national trainer, where she demonstrates great leadership skills, team management abilities, and a high level of energy in the development of activities.

In 2023, Javiera participated as a staff member in the execution and development of the Sports Management teams of the “Juegos Panamericanos” (Pan American Games, Santiago 2023). This experience further enhanced her skills in event organization, people management, and logistics.

Javiera’s positive energy, happiness, and dedication are evident in her work with AFS Chile, and she’s a fundamental part of their volunteer force.


Gilda Ramona Romero

AFS Argentina & Uruguay, 44 years old

Gilda is a passionate AFS Argentina & Uruguay volunteer. She currently serves as a local volunteer development coordinator, trainer, and facilitator for several digital international trainings. Gilda’s passion lies at the intersection of education, technology, and community empowerment. She crafts and participates in projects that combine these elements, such as launching tech skills workshops or advocating for access to educational resources.

Gilda’s expertise in system-building and technology is evident in her active participation in the organization of various hackathons in her community, where she has acted as a mentor, jury member, and sponsor. Her impact extends beyond AFS, as she also served as an Expert Consultant in Digital Education at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology in the Chaco Province, Argentina, coordinating events and activities that engaged over 5,000 educators.

During her journey at AFS, Gilda has made significant contributions as a facilitator, trainer, and coordinator. She has developed user-friendly online registration forms, crafted comprehensive onboarding materials, implemented tools to track volunteer performance, and managed budgets and resource allocation efficiently. Gilda’s skills in participant guidance, effective communication, and quick problem-solving were showcased at a recent event with Agiles Argentina, where she excelled at ensuring a smooth experience for all participants, even in unexpected situations.


Laura Isabel David Ponce

AFS Honduras, 28 years old

Laura has been responsible for guiding exchange students as they learn Spanish and discover a different culture, planning and organizing activities for students and their host families, leading volunteer training meetings, finding potential host families and applicants, filling registration forms for new members, and conducting interviews.

In 2016, Laura participated as a volunteer in World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. This large event had an approximate attendance of 300,000 people from around the world. Laura found this experience to be fun, rewarding, and challenging.  Laura’s extensive volunteer experience and her involvement in such a significant international event demonstrate her ability to excel in diverse and challenging environments. Her dedication and skills make her a great asset to any activity or organization she is a part of.


María Salomé Pulido Cruz

AFS Colombia, 23 years old

María Salomé started her AFS journey as a participant in 2021 and completed a volunteer program in Germany. Upon returning to Colombia, she decided to join AFS as a volunteer to expand her knowledge and skills through exchanges with participants and chapter members.

Maria loves to learn from those she shares the space with. As a volunteer, she’s a true guide for participants and helps them have the best experience in Colombia. Currently studying International Relations and Law, she’s eager to expand her knowledge by engaging in discussions with other leaders and participating in an event that recognizes the importance of collaboration within communities to generate effective solutions, a philosophy she wholeheartedly embraces.


Maartje Vanagt

AFS Lowlands, 23 years old

Maartje’s AFS journey began when she went to Finland on a year-long program in 2019-2020. Despite having to return after 7 months due to COVID-19, her experience attending an art school in Finland was very positive and inspired her to continue studying in this field.

After her return from Finland, Maartje became a volunteer with the local chapter, where she has been actively involved. She has been a student counselor for hosting and sending, volunteered at national camps, and worked on social media for AFS Lowlands.

She also interned at MNM, a national radio station in Belgium, where she worked on social media and photography. Currently, she works as a photographer for a magazine in Leuven, her hometown, and for Sporti, a sports organization for children. Additionally, she manages the social media for the Leuven Climbing Club.


Alex Herčíků

AFS Czechia, 19 years old

Alex started as a volunteer three years ago, and quickly went through training for newcomers, contact persons, and buddies. He then progressed to Chapter management, where he collaborates with other volunteers to plan and realize events for students.

He also takes care of public relations and delivers Intercultural Learning presentations and workshops at schools. Alex has been part of the prep team for the Annual Ball, an event for 300 people, and Safe Space, a volunteer project. Additionally, he is a regular member of the support team for camps for AFS students.

Alex’s organizational skills are excellent, and he enjoys planning and organizing events for large numbers of people. His collaboration and delegation skills are also strong, making him a reliable and responsible team member who completes tasks on time.

Beyond his volunteer work, Alex is passionate about intercultural education and is committed to taking good care of the students in his Chapter. He enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures. As an environmental protection student, he is interested in nature and climate action and values hearing others’ thoughts on the subject.


Tijana Marjanovic

AFS Serbia, 27 years old

Tijana has been actively involved as a member of a host family, participant, key volunteer, contact person several times, trainer on national and international levels, and coordinator of the Belgrade Local Chapter, where she manages a diverse range of tasks with dedication and creativity.

Tijana’s volunteer journey has been marked by her exceptional organizational skills and her ability to navigate through all phases of the volunteer experience successfully. Her best skill lies in hands-on work with young people, where she excels in implementing workshops and activities. Tijana is renowned for her exceptional training abilities and conducts training sessions for new volunteers in Serbia every year.

At the European level, Tijana is highly active as a trainer, in her second term as a member of the European Pool of Trainers. She has participated in several PEACE Camps, Volunteer Summer Summits, and ChapEx as a member of the prep team, showcasing her responsibility, dedication, creativity, and exceptional management skills.


Laura Paris

AFS Italy, 25 years old

Laura’s journey with AFS began seven years ago after participating in two exchange programs: one month in China and two months in New Zealand. Since then, she has dedicated herself to planning, organizing, and running several seminars, meetings, and training camps on a local and regional scale. These events often involve up to 40-50 people and include prep camps, advertising city events, and campaigns in schools. Laura actively participates in the candidate selection process, regional training seminars for volunteers, and national events whenever possible.

On an international level, Laura has made significant contributions. She was a member of the Trainers Team at the 2019 PEACE camp in Brussels and later joined the 2022 PEACE camp as a Support Team member. These experiences, along with the extensive preparation periods, have tested and honed her organizational skills.

In July 2022, Laura served as an AFS intercultural educator at the “We Are Energy” campus, where she worked with over 50 children of Enel employees from Italy, Romania, and India. Collaborating with company representatives and other partner organizations, she conducted workshops on renewable and sustainable energy, showcasing her flexibility, coordination, and organizational skills.


Mathilda Bella Clara Kura

AFS Germany, 21 years old

Mathilda has been actively involved in various leadership roles within AFS, demonstrating exceptional organizational and communication skills. Her involvement with the Cologne Chapter started right after she went on exchange to Panama.

Throughout the pandemic, Mathilda took charge of organizing monthly Zoom meetings for the Cologne chapter. In 2020, Mathilda joined the National Committee for Camp Organization (NatCo) to organize preparation seminars for students heading to Latin America. She managed logistics and led seminars, showcasing her commitment and outstanding communicative abilities.

Expanding her involvement, Mathilda became part of the National Representation Team for all volunteers, facilitating communication with the AFS office in Hamburg. This role led her to join the EFIL Advocacy Community of Practice, where she communicated about collaboration and exchange of advocacy strategies among European AFS organizations.


Mohammad Shadab

AFS India, 21 years old

Mohammad Shadab is one of our 2023 Young Volunteer Award recipients.

He embarked on a transformative journey within the AFS community that profoundly impacted both his personal growth and his community. His AFS adventure began with an exchange program in the USA, challenging his comfort zone and nurturing adaptability. Upon returning to India, he became actively involved in promoting cultural exchange and understanding at both local and national levels. Mohammad dedicated his time to volunteering for AFS India and played a crucial role in recruiting for various sponsored programs. He also facilitated national-level orientations and engaged in community service projects.

Mohammad’s commitment extended beyond AFS, where he initiated the non-profit project “Girls, Say YES,” supporting women’s empowerment and girls’ education. He organized cultural events and workshops, spreading intercultural awareness, and encouraged volunteerism. His efforts enriched the community and demonstrated his dedication to the AFS mission. Mohammad’s contributions in areas like environmental protection, climate action, and education have earned him recognition and accolades, including serving “Maximum hours of volunteer community service” according to Asia & India Books of Records.


Carlton Kojo Amegashie

AFS Ghana, 25 years old

Carlton’s passion for volunteering and making a difference in his community led him to participate in a volunteer project to renovate a basic school building in Accra, Ghana, as part of a group of participants from the US and Canada. He also served as an active member of the planning committee for the AFS Camp 2020, including organizing a fundraiser for the camp.

In addition to his work with AFS, Carlton has gained valuable experience working with the events manager at the British High Commission in Accra, where he curated a number of events, including the Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Party (QBP) in Accra 2022. His roles ranged from gate management and traffic control to check-in and guest list management, stage running, event ground setup, and IT support, among others.

Furthermore, Carlton served as the event planner for the 1HMG Africa Trade and Economic Seminar held in Accra, where he collaborated with co-event planners from Pretoria and London to handle logistics.


Jinghan Guan

AFS China, 24 years old

After participating in an AFS exchange program to Denmark in 2016-2017, Jinghan became a volunteer with AFS China, where she regularly organizes activities for participants to explore Chinese culture. During her time as a volunteer, Jinghan has demonstrated exceptional organizational skills and a strong commitment to fostering international exchange; planning and facilitating events and assisting  participants.

Beyond her role as an AFS volunteer, Jinghan has experience as a research assistant at a world-renowned university, where she organized large-scale events. This includes coordinating the closing conference of a European Union-funded research project, managing logistical details, and liaising with EU Commission representatives and researchers from universities worldwide.


Teerayut Dowruang

AFS Thailand, 29 years old

Teerayut’s dedication to volunteering with AFS Thailand for nearly a decade, particularly in running soft skills workshops, showcases his commitment to community development and education. Currently serving as a Learning and Development Manager at an international corporation, Teerayut possesses exemplary facilitation and learning design skills.

Teerayut’s expertise extends to hosting impactful Soft Skills and Knowledge Management workshops, as well as orchestrating Startup Weekend competitions. His exceptional logistical and organizational prowess is evident in his management of both virtual and in-person workshops, benefiting over 1,000 participants. Additionally, his significant involvement in organizing AFS returnees training for nearly a decade highlights his capacity to handle large-scale events efficiently.


M Ruban Murugan

AFS Malaysia, 22 years old

Ruban has been a dedicated and committed volunteer, who regularly assists his local chapter, alumni, other volunteers  and the AFS office in various tasks. As a facilitator he’s always ready to suport and help in AFS and YES orientations. He is great at keeping participants engaged, and is a good listener and problem solver.

Ruban is a key volunteer in AFS Malaysia, highly motivated, passion-driven and most importantly a team-player for anything that he undertakes.


Adham Nader Galal Gohar

AFS Egypt, 21 years old

Adham embarked on his AFS journey as a 15-year-old exchange student in Rochester, NY. Now a 20-year-old student at the American University in Cairo, Adham reflects on his exchange year as a time of personal growth and cultural discovery. His return to Egypt marked the beginning of an active volunteering journey with AFS Egypt.

Driven by his passion for community development and intercultural understanding, Adham co-founded the AFS Egypt Alumni Podcast, giving voice to alumni stories and experiences. He has also been deeply involved in organizing various events, including the Kennedy – Lugar YES program interviews and pre-departure orientations. Through these initiatives, Adham has demonstrated exceptional leadership and organizational skills, making a significant impact within his local AFS chapter and the broader AFS community in Egypt.

Adham’s dedication to fostering global citizenship and his commitment to making a difference in his community are truly inspiring. His journey with AFS has not only enriched his own life but has also touched the lives of many others. As he continues to pursue his academic and professional goals, Adham remains a shining example of the positive impact of cultural exchange and volunteerism.


Amanda Ferguson

AFS USA, 29 years old

Amanda’s journey with AFS began when her family hosted an exchange student from Paraguay, sparking a deep connection to cultural exchange. Since then, she has hosted students from Germany and Sweden and participated in a summer program in Costa Rica. Currently, Amanda volunteers with AFS Colorado Rockies, primarily conducting interviews for study abroad candidates.

Professionally, Amanda serves as a Program Officer with World Learning, where she organizes programs and summits for groups ranging from 16 to 105 students and educators. Her recent work includes managing logistics for a 75-person Youth Ambassadors Alumni Summit in Washington D.C. and coordinating a 28-person international exchange to Brazil. Amanda’s attention to detail, ability to adapt under pressure, and skill in troubleshooting have been instrumental in ensuring the success of these events.


Dávid Gyula Pinczési

AFS Hungary, 23 years old

David’s  journey with AFS Hungary began in 2016, and since then, he has been actively involved in various volunteer roles, including contact person, group leader, camp leader, and airport representative. He has organized city-level and national-level events within AFS, including serving on the organizing board for the AFS Santa Claus party, where he managed complex tasks such as securing accommodations and coordinating technical staff.

Beyond AFS, David has organized conferences and kick-off meetings for researchers and academic staff from Europe at the Hétfa Research Institute, and the NOVA University of Lisbon. David’s experiences have cultivated adaptability, crucial for navigating challenges such as the pandemic and accommodating participants from diverse backgrounds. His rapid and effective problem-solving skills have been evident in addressing contingencies like health emergencies or security incidents.

With a background that includes living in India, Spain, and Portugal, and proficiency in six languages, David possesses a deep understanding of cultural and religious diversity. His versatility and culturally aware approach make him a valuable asset in handling different organizational settings.


Ilteris Kaan Cerit

AFS Turkey, 25 years old

Ilteris Kaan Cerit, as a volunteer of AFS Turkey, is one of our 2023 Community Impact Award recipients.

Ilteris has been an engaged volunteer with AFS since 2016, dedicating his efforts to empowering young people to respect themselves and others, thereby positively impacting global communities. His involvement deepened significantly when he volunteered in an area affected by a recent earthquake, providing immediate support and showcasing his leadership and empathy during critical times.

His proactive approach and dedication to helping others extended to his participation in international AFS forums, where he shared valuable insights on youth engagement and community support. Ilteris’s experiences have established him as a key figure within the AFS community, inspiring peers and new volunteers to advocate for cultural respect and meaningful change.