Edna Debela

“I was looking around for exchange opportunities because I wanted to see the world,” shared Edna Debela, a junior at Woodbridge High School, with a look in her eyes only a world explorer could truly know.

In December, Edna travelled to Ethiopia, and   confessed, “I had this culture shock. Everything was so different.”

After the trip and returning to Woodbridge, Virginia, Edna wanted to see more of the world.

In March, the U.S. Department of State and the Youth Ambassadors Team selected Edna to participate in the 2023 U.S. Youth Ambassador Program with Brazil.

“She went through a rigorous application and interview process, which was highly competitive this year,” commented Hemam Girma Neway, Edna’s mother. “I am very proud of her for making it to the final among only 120 students in the whole U.S.”

“I felt prepared for the interview,” reflected Edna. She detailed her time researching potential questions, practicing her answers, and drawing from her many leadership classes, such as Student Activities and Leadership Council (SALC), experience as Key Club and School Council Association captain, and her supporting role as secretary of the Future Business Leaders of America. “These classes taught me how to take control, speak up, and plan for success.”

Her leadership classes helped elevate her in the application process. Against students across the county, the U.S. State Department recognized the quality of Edna’s application and interview as evidence of her excellent academic and professional performance, as well as a strong commitment to her community.

Edna’s SALC teacher, Matthew Munford, was not surprised to hear the future leader’s acceptance into this  prestigious program. “Edna Debela is an amazing leader,” said Munford. “I think it is an amazing opportunity, and I believe she will be an asset to the group she works with and for.”

As a Youth Ambassador, Edna will be traveling to Brazil in July with 119 fellow students from across the country. “I’m excited!” exclaimed Edna. “We are going to be doing community service, visiting schools, the U.S. Embassy & Consulate, and attending leadership workshops.”

From her experience, she hopes to bring back an understanding of a different culture, of how different people outside the U.S. live, and how to work with a diverse group.