By KIMEKO MCCOY
St. Joseph Academy senior Samantha Cosme has some big plans for after graduation.
For college, the Youth Ambassador has set her sights on George Washington University or Georgetown University, both in Washington, D.C., to major in international relations and political science.
In addition to furthering her education, Cosme also has plans to do some interning at the U.S. Capitol.
What may seem like wishful thinking may only be a hop, skip and a jump away for a student like Cosme thanks to the 450th Youth Ambassador Program.
The program has around 36 active students with one goal: Facilitate the 450th celebration initiative.
“The point, really, is to prepare ourselves for the 450th and to inform everyone in 2015 about what St. Augustine is really about,” Cosme said.
Youth Ambassadors was started in 2011.
To prepare them, group coordinator Nancy Birchall travels with the students to historic sites in St. Augustine. Students act as sponges, absorbing information and learn the history of St. Augustine for next year’s celebration.
Some of the places visited include the Castillo, the Old Jail, the Journey Exhibit and Fort Mose Historic State Park.
The students also participate in volunteer opportunities around the city at events like the Discover First America Series in the Flagler College auditorium, the Menendez Gala and more.
So far, Cosme’s favorite opportunity has been at the fort, where she fired the cannon.
“I did the cannon school there,” she said. “It’s a really cool process.”
For the process, Cosme fired 10 times with the required outfit made of wool and ear plugs, all in the heat of a Florida summer.
Pete Scalco, Fort Mose Historic State Park services specialist, found himself impressed with the ambassadors during their visit earlier this month.
“They were very attentive,” he said. “They were very engaged.”
During the visit, the ambassadors remained engaged for the full length of time, Scalco said. The visit was to learn the history of Fort Mose and its explanation as well as development.
“It was a very interesting program and they were engaged the entire time,” he said.
A chip off the old block
Before Cosme participated in any of the many opportunities offered by the ambassadors, she learned the value in getting to know your city by tagging along with her father, Raphael Cosme, who is a historian.
“He would go to (digging sites) and I would go with him sometimes to see the digging sites they had and I heard a lot about volunteer opportunities around the city,” Cosme said. “I kind of just got involved in different ones.”
So when Nancy Birchall and Jeani Taliaferro of the 450th Youth Ambassadors approached Cosme about the possibility of joining, she said yes. Not knowing much about the organization and not what to expect, Cosme joined.
“I turned my form in and I didn’t know what to expect really,” she said
Since she joined in May 2011, Cosme has noticed a change and growth within herself and her fellow ambassadors.
“It’s kind of grown my fascination in it because I never really paid attention to what was going on with the history and the 450th in general,” she said.
Now, Cosme has a new found set of skills like public speaking, networking and knowledge of St. Augustine history.
To achieve these skills, Cosme said that each of the ambassadors is asked to really step up to the plate.
One of the most challenging things Cosme has had to do with volunteering was at the Flagler Auditorium when she was put on the spot.
“They wanted me to translate in Spanish, because my family can speak Spanish, and they wanted me to do it on the spot,” she said
Surprisingly enough, it turned out just fine, she said.
“It’s gotten to the point where I just do more than I have to for the city.”
What lies ahead
With her new skills and set goals, Cosme hopes to tackle her dreams.
So far, she’s already interned here in St. Augustine with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and serves as the president of her school’s student council.
When she’s not serving as an ambassador or thinking about her future, Cosme spends time playing the guitar or piano or hanging out with friends getting sweet treats from Kilwin’s.
“I always go with my friends downtown because it’s really nice,” she said. “You get ice cream from Kilwins.”
Even if Cosme goes on and becomes an international political superstar, she got started here in St. Augustine.