Senior Visits Southeast Asia, Launches New Program

Jocelyn in Singapore

Jocelyn Hernandez takes in the sights outside the city
center of Singapore.

While most high school students may have been enjoying the sun at the coast this summer, rising Lee High School senior, Jocelyn Hernandez, was taking on the issue of environmental sustainability. Jocelyn was one of twenty-two students selected nationwide to partake in an all-expense trip to Southeast Asia as part of the American Youth Leadership Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The three-week international exchange experience, June 28 – July 24, took Jocelyn to Singapore and Malaysia, where she would experience entirely new cultures filled with rich histories. The program aims to inspire students to consider future careers in science, sustainable development or international studies – all careers that demand a global perspective.

“I felt it was important to travel and learn about Singapore and Malaysia, given the recent pivot to Asia in American foreign policy,” said Jocelyn. It’s evident that the United States has shown strategic interest in the region because these countries are beginning to play a prominent role in the 21st century economy.”

Elephant Conservation
Jocelyn visits Kuala Lumpur’s elephant conservation facility.

Jocelyn quickly took notice of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur’s environmental efforts, evidenced by their vast green spaces that they have managed to sustain while facing rapid urbanization.  In just a month, Jocelyn learned about the history, cuisine, economics, languages and sustainability programs of both countries.

“Immersing myself in a culture distant from my own home taught me about tolerance, discipline, innovation, religious devotion, and loyalty,” said Jocelyn. “Experiencing something different once in a while can bring life-changing moments. That’s why I am so thankful the Department of State has set a precedence for cultural exchange programs like this one.”

Kicking off her post-program project – ENVIRONATE

Jocelyn didn’t just earn a trip to South Asia, she was also named a national winner of the program’s grant competition. The grant has allowed her to start a conjunct non-profit in San Antonio and Washington, D.C.

Jocelyn truly believes that it is up to her generation to forge sustainable development in and outside the borders of the United States. The highly motivated student wants to prevent young minds from falling into the cracks, just because they are at-risk students. Her solution: ENVIRONATE.

“I am funding ENVIRONATE to provide underprivileged high school sophomores and juniors with eco-focused research apprenticeships in the areas of business, law, policy, and STEM (Science, Technology, Mathematics, & Engineering,” said Jocelyn. “EVIRONATE is a verb I created that means to educate on environmental affairs.”

The program will provide a three-month virtual training and seminar training prior to the seven-week internship. To learn more about the program, visit

Little India Dunman HS
(left) Jocelyn and her fellow young leader colleagues visit “Little India” in Singapore. (right) Jocelyn tries the local cuisine at Dunman High School in Singapore.



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