In 2013, more than 80 community college students, young professionals, and college faculty traveled to Brazil for a one-month paid fellowship to work with 800 Brazilian high school students, thanks to the Conexão Mundo/World Connection program. Established through a partnership between US-Brazil Connect, and the Brazilian Confederation of Industry, the National Industrial Apprenticeship Service of Brazil (SENAI), and the Social Service for Industry of Brazil (SESI), the 2013 Conexão Mundo/World Connection program is an English and leadership exchange that operates for a total of 20 weeks, remotely for 16 weeks and in-person for four weeks. The program expanded from serving 200 Brazilian students in one Brazilian city in 2012 to serving 800 Brazilian students in seven Brazilian cities in 2013. Next year, Conexão Mundo/ World Connection anticipates serving up to 2000 Brazilian students and sending 200 U.S. participants to Brazil.
Brazil is now the sixth largest economy of the world, but less than 2% of American students who study abroad each year travel to Brazil. US-Brazil Connect’s mission is to strengthen education and build economic opportunities by connecting communities, engaging leaders, and creating transformative learning experiences linking the United States and Brazil. The organization helps to increase community college capacity and to build institutional-level transnational partnerships, bringing U.S. community colleges together with the SENAI and SESI systems, Brazil’s largest professional training system. Operating since 2011, US-Brazil Connect achieves this through engagement of its consortium of participating colleges, including: Red Rocks Community College (Colorado); Jackson College (Michigan); Northwestern Michigan College (Michigan); and Flathead Valley Community College (Montana).
US-Brazil Connect helps college consortium members and their students address one of the major barriers college students face in considering study abroad programs: program cost. Outstanding students selected for US-Brazil Connect Fellowships make a commitment to work intensely with a small group of Brazilian students. In support of this commitment, each participant receives a package valued at over $6000, including preparation prior to departure, and lodging, meals, local coordination, stipend, and local transportation for a month in Brazil.
US-Brazil Connect’s partnership with the Confederation of Industry, SESI, and SENAI is mutually beneficial. Less than 5% of Brazilians speak English. As the country continues to emerge as a global economic power, Brazilian leaders in industry, education, and government recognize that more young Brazilians must develop their English skills. The SESI and SENAI educational systems, which together serve more than three million students annually, have turned to US-Brazil Connect to address this challenge. The Conexão Mundo/ World Connection program, which is delivered to Brazilian high school students through this partnership, helps Brazilian youth increase their skill and confidence communicating in English, as well as establishes an active community wherein English is the primary language.