When Kylea Roberts got home from school Friday afternoon, she had a fair amount of packing to do.
The Lee's Summit North junior departs Saturday for South America, where she will be part of a three-week exchange program in Chile and Argentina.
Roberts was one of just eight students selected from across the nation to be a U.S. Youth Ambassador through a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Global Ties KC and World Learning. She is scheduled to fly from Kansas City to Washington, D.C., where she and nine others (two adult mentors) will leave Monday morning for Miami en route to Santiago, Chile.
She returns May 14, flying from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Houston before the final leg to Kansas City.
Roberts said she knows this immersion will be a life-changing experience, as her Spanish teacher Robin Villa has impressed on her, but she says it's hard to fully comprehend that until she actually reaches South America.
“We just hear about it, but we don't know how different it is,” she said. “(Students) are all really excited for me, especially the people in Spanish, that I get to experience the culture.
“I'm not really nervous, just feel like I'm open to new things. I'm a little nervous about speaking Spanish to them, but I'll get over it.”
Roberts has been taking Spanish classes since eighth grade, and Villa considers her rather fluent in the language. Part of the interview process conducted over Skype is conversation in Spanish.
“When they're going through the activities, pretty much everything will be in Spanish,” Villa said. “We know it was a competitive vetting process because it's completely free.
“She was on the alternate list, and someone originally selected had to drop out. They paid to have her passport expedited. It's completely paid for.”
Roberts said her father and older brother each studied Spanish for a few years.
“I'm really into Spanish, and decided I'll try and see if I can into this program,” Roberts said. “(Villa) brought it up and I ran with it.”
Roberts' family was one of several to host students from Chile and Argentina, March 22-April 2, through the same program. She said she plans to meet with several of those students in South America.
“I had a great time doing stuff with them,” she said. “We took them to the zoo, and they came to school for couple days. Their main goal was to try to improve their English, but I would ask her about new words (in Spanish).”
Roberts is active in cheerleading, orchestra, the Youth Aspiring Scientists Club, National Honor Society and (naturally) Spanish Honor Society and is an international baccalaureate diploma candidate. She said her future profession, whatever it might be, likely would involve Spanish.
“I'm not sure what I want to do with it,” she said, “but know want to major in it.”