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The Young Champion Ambassador program links collaborative problem-solving thinking & personal reflection exercises while connecting tomorrow's leaders with the origins of the Olympic & Paralympic values.
YCA's Executive Director, Harris Kalofonos, grew up in Athens, Greece. Immersed in the Olympic idea from a young age, the Olympic story was considered a core element in Greek's identity as the Olympics originated in Greece. When Harris came to the US in 2006, he was surprised by the lack of the public's awareness for the Olympics origin and impact. As Harris worked at several Olympic Games over the years, he would always wonder what he could do about it.
In 2014, a lifetime opportunity was presented. After establishing a sister city relationship between the birthplace of the Olympics in Greece and Olympic City USA, Harris and Donna Nelson -inspired by a conversation with the major of Ancient Olympia in Greece- came up with the idea to develop an ambassadorial Olympic education program.
They called it Young Champion Ambassador (YCA)!
Typically, education programs focus on data delivery and miss their main objective -engaging students.
What makes YCA different
1. We use data to understand students' and parents' needs and aspirations.
2. We tested reinforcement learning practices that increased student engagement & attention.
3. We developed a curriculum that balances the needed between traditional and creative educational modalities to augment leadership skills and career readiness
4. We infuse inspirational Olympic stories
5. We offer amazing materials
6. We focus on participants developing strong friendshipships between them
7. We have offer at the end of the program a one of a kind educational trip to the origin of the Olympic Games in Greece.
USA, India, Abu Dhabi UK, Slovenia, Greece
Duration: 1 ½ hr
What: Program Intro Activity: Ice breakers, Get Acquainted
Take Away: Program Expectations
What: Introduction to Fundamentals
Learn: Big Picture
Take Away: Inspiration Flame
What: Personal and Team Profiles
Learn: Your fellow team members
Take Away: Introduce yourself, learn about your team
What: Hopes & Dreams
Learn: Acquainted with your Superpowers
Take Away: Personal Brand Framework
What: Setting Priorities
Learn: Digital Minimalism, Your Routine
Take Away: Program Expectations
What: The Creative Mindset
Learn: Skills & Habits of Creativity
Take Away: Techniques for Creative Thinking
What: Approach on big problems
Learn: Design Thinking
Take Away: Confidence in Problem - Solving
What: Continuing Through Hardship
Learn: Taking your Idea into the Real World
Take Away: How to Scale Your Idea
What: Reflection on what we learned
Learn: StorytellingTake Away: Public speaking confidence
(optional for those who participate in the origin trip)
Pre – Trip
What: All about upcoming YCA Trip
Learn: What to expect, bring, last notes
Take Away: Travel with confidence
Become and Ambassador
Duration: Athens & Ancient Olympia, Greece
What: International Travel & Real Work Experience & Networking
Learn: Synthesize all YCA learnings / Work in teams / Define personal brand
Take Away: Confidently to step into your future Itinerary:
YCA Participants get their own online profile and can interact with other YCA participants and alumni around the world!
An inspirational item to help you capture ideas and thought throught the program
One of our most popular materials. A great way to connect with your YCA partner thought the program
YCA Online profile
A virtual place to connect with others and track your progress with the YCA online courses
YCA Instructors have a deep connection with the Olympic movement. They have lived and world all over the world and love to share experiences and life lessons.
A six day one of a kind international trip to the origin of wester civilization and the olympics that take place every year in late Spring or early Fall.
What is included
Room & board, all ground transporations, access to all sites, guides, dedicated YCA team member with you at all times.
- Arrivals in Athens, Greece
- Airport pick-ups (YCA team member will be at the airport to pick you up)
- Hotel check Inn in Athens
- Settle in, refresh, and prep for dinner
- Welcome dinner. we will treat you to local savor and sweet delights in Athens's ancient city accompanied by members of the Olympic family.
- Athnens & Ancient Olympia
- Breakfast will take place with a breathtaking view of the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.
- Our day tours will take you to the top of the city for an up-close experience at the Parthenon; coming down from the Parthenon; you will walk where Socrates would once teach.
- Our afternoon will take us to the famous Acropolis Museum, where you will be introduced to the way of the ancient Athenian's life.
- Then we will visit to the Olympic Stadium, the venue that hosted the modern Olympic Games of 1896.
- Then we will jump on our bus to head towards Corinth and Ancient Olympia.
- The evening will find you in the gardens of Ancient Olympia for dinner, olive tasting, and other local delights ancient Greek athletes would enjoy.
Day Three - Ancient Olympia.
- After a slow morning, we will visit the sacred Olympic grounds and the Olympic Games' birthplace.
- Lunch will be held near the Ancient Site, and our host will be the Mayor of Ancient Olympia and other city officials.
- The afternoon will find you at the grounds of the amphitheater of the International Olympic Academy for a deep-dive session on the history of the Olympics.
- Dinner will be a celebration in the garden of the city at VIP dinner with other Olympic dignitaries.
Day Four - Ancient Olympia.
- After breakfast, we will break out to our YCA teams, and with the help of your team leaders, you will start working on your team projects.
- Lunch will be held at a small traditional village on the outskirts of the city near the river.
- After lunch, we will have a break out session for all YCA teams to prepare for the final project presentationThe late afternoon will include optional activities like team working or a VIP locals hike around the city's hills.
- The evening will conclude with the Teams final presentation, Awards, and Dinner
Day Five - Ancient Olympia -
After breakfast, We will have a short reflection session sharing pictures and memories.
The day will be dedicated to free time for shopping and visiting for the last time favorite parts of the Ancient City Farewell lunch will occur to share stories and celebrate friendship. Late Afternoon free time
Dinner will be slow to help prep for departures next day
Day Six - Departures
Your YCA starts with a simple and easy step. Create your YCA online account. Once that is done you will receive a confirmation email and then we recommend you start the YCA online fundamentals course - relax- it takes only 3min to do and it help to get you familiar with what to expect next.
From your YCA online account you will have access to all YCA tools and online course you need to be successful.
The YCA notebook is an amazing-award winning guide to accompany you along your YCA journey. It included all YCA fundamentals you need to know. It will also serve as the place for you to keep notes, capture thoughts and even share some pages at the end in your YCA portfolio.
Your participants love this project. It is an award winning project that helps you connnect with and transforms your communication.
In real life, we all work or collaborate with other people. Being a leader of tomorrow means (in most cases) having to lead others.
At YCA, we believe -together we can go further- and we instill team-building experiences and exercises throughout the program.YCA's Capstone projects mimic real-life problems you will be called in the future to solve with a team.
YCA capstone projects are a great way to practice creative problem-solving technics and apply your superpowers while working with other
*What is a capstone project?
A capstone project is a multifaceted assignment that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for students at the end of an educational program or learning-pathway experience such as a YCA program.
While similar in some ways to a mini college thesis, capstone projects may take a wide variety of forms to solve a problem. Most capstone projects are team-oriented efforts that culminate in the case of YCA in a final presentation.
By joining YCA depending where you are in the world you will receive apparel as well as access to the YCA online store!
- Arrival & departure airport transfers, on designated travel dates
- Lodging - 9 nights
- All meals - 20 total
- All sessions and tours are in English
- Accompanying host (English speaking YCA team leader) at all times
- Transportation to all venues on the itinerary
- Domestic boat fare on the itinerary
- Designated VIP guided tours
- Fees to sites, museums, venues on the itinerary
- U.S. Sales Tax
- Surprise gift
- Transportation to & from Greece
- Travel & Medical Insurance
- Excess baggage charges
- Gratuities for guides, drivers, porters & housekeeping staff
- Tour & activity fees outside itinerary
How fit do I need to be?
We'll be active every day, and our trips are designed to be enjoyed by anyone who is reasonably fit. However, some daily excursions may be somewhat challenging (think cobblestone roads, heat, and humidity, dust, inclined walks, etc.), but we will let you be the best judge as to how much you can do. We will be supportive of your decision to "take it easy." A gentle reminder that you will need to carry your own bags.
How far in advance do I need to book?
Because space is limited on each trip, we recommend that you book as soon as possible; that way, your spot is guaranteed. Additionally, if you see a trip that interests you that is already full, send us a note, and we will add your name to a waiting list and notify you if there are any cancellations.
Can I book the YCA Trip through a travel agent?
Not at this time.
Can I do portions of the YCA trip?
Unfortunately, this is not possible. However, if, on one of our trips, you decide to take an afternoon to yourself or deviate from any of our meal plans, you are free to do so (expense will be your responsibility). We ask for a courtesy notice in advance.
What are the payment requirements?
See Terms and Conditions.
Are there any age limits to travel with YCA?
At present, YCA trips are geared for people 14 years of age or older. Future YCA plans include the development of family-oriented trips, so stay tuned for those to come. On certain trips, we may require medical consent for participants.
Should I be concerned about the political stability of the country we are visiting?
The safety of our YCA's, leaders, and operators is a significant priority for YCA. We monitor world events constantly, with particular emphasis on the countries we visit, and we will make operational decisions based on informed advice from U.S. and Canadian government sources. If the advisory from these sources is a 'Do Not Travel' warning, YCA and Origin will cancel the trip or reroute the itinerary to avoid the areas concerned.
Packing and What to BringWhat should I pack?
Once you've registered for a YCA plan, you'll receive a YCA/Origin Trip Planner that will include suggested items for your consideration. In general, we recommend the tried and true method of dressing in layers and packing as light as possible. Additionally, formal wear might be required at times.
Backpack, rolling duffel, or suitcase? What about a carry-on?
Any of the above will work; the most important thing is that you can carry it as you are responsible for moving your bags through airports, on/off ground transportation, and up/downstairs in hotels if an elevator is not available. We strongly recommend something with wheels, and you'll have to meet the airline requirements regarding weight, size, and several checked bags, so pay close attention to those details. Additionally, we strongly recommend bringing a small carry-on bag or backpack (it must also comply with the airline size requirements) that should contain anything of importance. Overall, pack smart and pack light.
What medications should I bring?
The YCA/Origin Trip Planner that will be sent to you in advance of your journey will contain a suggested list of items to bring, such as over-the-counter medications to treat or prevent common minor ailments (such as headaches, etc.). Guests taking prescription medication should bring an appropriate supply plus a few extra doses in unexpected travel delays or emergencies.
Are my personal belongings safe while on the trip?
The best advice we can give is that it is best to leave it at home if something is significant. There are many things you can do to minimize loss of personal effects, and they include leaving jewelry at home (wear/bring only a minimal amount) and don't draw attention to yourself with designer clothing and bags, or displaying items that are expensive or unavailable in various parts of the world, like laptops.
Travel Documents and InsuranceWhat about my passport, and do I need a travel visa?
Passport: You will need a valid passport with an expiration date of at least 6 months past the last day of the intended travel date. For instance, if you are booking a trip for June 1-6, 2022, your passport should be valid until December 7, 2022. You also need to make sure your passport has enough empty pages for immigration officials to add a physical stamp as you pass through the different immigration points. And, if you've recently had a name change, you'll want to make sure that you've made those changes as well. The U.S. State Department site can further explain the above information and any other issues, so please review it to ensure that your travel documents are in order. https://www.us-passport-service-guide.com/passport-requirements.htmlIf you are a citizen of another country, please refer to your home nation's travel requirements.
Travel Visa: For U.S. citizens traveling to Greece and the E.U., no VISA is needed. In general, these requirements vary widely depending on your nationality and your destination. Once you've booked with YCA and have provided us with your nationality, we will advise if you'll need a travel visa. If one is required, there are visa processing companies that can help you obtain a visa, and we will provide you with some recommendations. It will be the traveler's responsibility to apply and pay for travel visas.
Do I need to buy Travel and Medical Insurance?Yes. Travel and Medical Insurance are mandatory for all YCA/Origin trips. State medical insurance and private health plans will not cover you in most overseas countries. Various companies offer this coverage, including World Nomads, United Healthcare Travel Insurance, and Global Rescue.Before purchase, check the terms of the policies carefully, especially the limits of coverage (e.g., for replacement of luggage loss, etc.) and procedures for making claims. There is generally a time limit based on travel date completion by which claims must be filed.For all the details about YCAS' and Origins' insurance requirements, please see our Terms and Conditions page.
What are the specifics required for my Medical and Travel Insurance coverage?
Medical: Your policy must cover medical costs in the event of hospitalization, emergency travel, and repatriation. Some activities might include horseback riding, zip lines, or other similar activities. Make sure your policy covers these activities.
Travel Cancellation Coverage: Your travel policy must also include cancellation coverage to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. Each traveler must submit one copy of their medical and travel policies to Origin at least 30 days before travel. The copies must show the policy number and the emergency hotline phone number. Origin retains the right to cancel your trip with no refunds for failure to provide proof of insurance by the trip date.
Required Coverage:Accident & Sickness Medical Expense Coverage (minimum $150,000 USD)Emergency Evacuation & Repatriation of Remains (minimum $250,000 USD)Accidental Death / DismembermentTrip Cancellation Coverage
Suggested Additional Coverage:Hospital Room and BoardBaggage and Personal Effects CoverageTrip Delay / InterruptionVisitor to Bedside You must evaluate your risk and purchase travel insurance covering the full value of the trip and personal effects in the case of Trip cancellation, loss or theft of baggage, and emergency evacuation. Origin owners, agents, and subsidiaries will not be held responsible for these expenses. You need to realize that if you experience a delay or find it necessary to cancel or cut short the trip for any reason, you will lose part or the entire sum of the amount paid.In general, travel insurance helps to minimize the risk of monetary losses you would incur in the event of a delay of your departure due to weather, airline strike, missed connection, etc., your inability to travel for reasons such as illness, injury, unforeseen financial complications, and other personal circumstances, or if you were required to cut the trip short for medical or any other reasons.There are restrictions and limitations on any insurance program. For this reason, we recommend that you read the fine print of your insurance policy carefully.
Where can I get travel and medical insurance?World Nomads, United Health Care, and Global Rescue provide these services, among others.
Flight and Airline InformationDo Origin trips include airfare?
The traveler's responsibility is to arrange and pay for airfare to/from the designated travel site. Take note that in some cases, the arrival and departure cities may be different. If the YCA/Origin trip includes an in-country flight or boat ferry outlined in the itinerary, the arrangements and cost for that flight or ferry will be covered by YCA.
What is the baggage policy?
Each airline has its own baggage policy, which is subject to change; therefore, review your airline's policy to verify carry-on restrictions, prohibited items, number of bags permitted, and weight allowances for your international departure and arrival flights, as there may be penalties for additional/overweight bags. For in-country flights arranged by Origin and as part of the Origin itinerary, excess and/or overweight baggage fees, if any, will be passed along to the traveler. The traveler will pay this fee by credit card at the airline check-in counter.
What about those liquids in my carry-on?
The TSA requirement still permits liquids in 3.4 oz. (100ml) containers by volume, or smaller, all to be contained in one single, see-through, quart-sized zip bag.
What will I need for customs and immigration?
Customs: Travelers must comply with local laws regarding items that may be brought in and taken out of a country, as well as what may be brought back into the U.S. (or your home country) upon your return. Please familiarize yourself with the customs requirements of the countries you will be visiting, as well as what is permissible to be brought into the U.S. Immigration: Airline security measures require that your passport name must exactly match your airline ticket name, or you may be denied boarding or may be required to purchase a new airline ticket.
Money and CurrencyHow much spending money do I need?You'll be pleased to know that once you land at the Origin designated arrival city and leave from the Origin designated departure city, your lodging, local ground transportation, all meals, and tour and site fees, outlined in the itinerary are included in your YCA trip fee. Those will be your own expense if you choose to take a meal outside of the YCA schedule.
What about tipping?Origin will cover tips for meals within our itinerary. However, tips outside of this are at your discretion. Full details of tipping are covered in the YCA/Origin Trip Planner you will receive before you embark upon your trip.
Where will my credit card be accepted?
Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are accepted in most major shops, restaurants, and hotels. However, credit cards with magnetic strips may not work in European automated ticketing machines (such as transit vending systems). These require chip and pin cards; contact your credit card company for details.
Will I find ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) overseas?Yes, they are available, but they are not as readily convenient as they are in the U.S., and they are even rarer in smaller towns. When available, ATMs dispense local currency for internationally accepted ATM cards and/or credit cards and have a service fee of approximately 3% in addition to the fees your credit card company may charge.
Where can I find more information on money and currency rates?
Currency information and rates fluctuate daily; check out these or other sites: Google Currency Exchange and XE.
Internet and Communications
What communication facilities will be available?
While connectivity is not in our control, we have selected hotels with good Wi-Fi, and there are many public places where Wi-Fi is available. Some of our day excursions will take us to remote locations where signal coverage is not so strong or not available, so you should communicate to your friends/family/co-workers that you may be out of touch for specific periods of time.
Emergency contact info?
If family and friends cannot contact you in an emergency through email or phone, please give them the Origin phone numbers and emails in advance to contact us. This information will be listed in the YCA/Origin Trip Planner.
Will my mobile phone work overseas?
Before you depart, contact your service provider about activating international phone service coverage and inquire about their global roaming and other costs involved. These plans can generally be activated for short periods of time to cover just the time you will be out of the U.S. We can never guarantee your phone will work as desired, as many of our destinations are out of the way and you may have limited coverage.
While on the Trip Will I be met at the airport in the designated arrival city?
Yes, an Origin host will meet you outside of baggage claim to escort you to ground transportation that will take you to the hotel. Your flight will be monitored for any adjustments due to flight delays. If you are already in-country (due to arrival dates before Origin's official trip date start), you will need to arrange and pay for your own transportation to the host hotel. More detailed information will be included in your Origin Trip Planner.
What time is the hotel check-in?
Hotels generally allow check-in after 3 pm. If you arrive earlier than that time and your room is not ready, you can drop your luggage and do some local exploring before our evening reception and dinner.
What if I arrive late and miss part of the trip?
Weather happens, we know. When this occurs, or there is any other reason causing a change in your arrival time, please contact YCA to adjust accordingly. Also for the YCA trip to Athens, Greece we stay two days there so if you come a day late, there should not be a problem. Unfortunately, it won't be possible to reimburse you for any missed portions of the trip.
And their local guides?
We've sought out the most knowledgeable, experienced, and interesting local guides to lead our outings. They are qualified experts, passionate about their homeland and subject matter, and they speak excellent English. They will impart knowledge that you won't find in travel guides.
Is there any free time?
Each day on the YCA itinerary is action-packed, but we have included a few "rest breaks" where you will have a chance to relax or do some exploring on your own. If you want to skip a specific event, you are free to do so. We ask that you notify us in advance, and we remind you that we are unable to reimburse you for missed activities.
Is it possible to extend the trip, either on the front or back end?
Yes. You may schedule your arrival earlier than our first scheduled day, and/or you may depart after the last of our scheduled days. Any expenses incurred for either of these scenarios, including lodging, meals, tours, ground transportation, etc., will be your responsibility.
Excuse me, but I have to go to the bathroom….NOW!!!
Yep, we know, it's happened to all of us, the sudden and urgent need to use the facilities. Most places we visit will have western toilets, but you should be mentally prepared for the unexpected. In general, toilets will be readily available and western-style in cities, and they may not be so available in remote areas. We'll do our best to help you out should you find yourself in an urgent situation.
What about laundry?
Our hotels will offer a laundry service, but these services are often pricey and can take up to 24 hours. Laundry expenses will be your responsibility.
Planes, trains, and automobiles?
We will travel in various transportation modes, including cars, coaches, minivans, ferries, and/or planes.
Uber, you ask? It is available in some countries, so if you opt to go out on your own, you may be able to use your Uber account. Specifically, in Greece, the car-share service everyone uses is called taxibet. Make sure to download the app before your arrival just in case you need it.
Mother Nature and the Weather
Origin and YCCA has crafted its trips around periods considered the most favorable weather conditions to visit each location. However, the weather is never a guarantee. We ask for you to be prepared for varied conditions, including heat, humidity, rain, wind, changing temperatures throughout the day, etc.
Charging my Electronic Devices?
In the Origin/YCA Trip Planner, we'll send you the specific information regarding the electrical current and needed electrical converters and/or adaptors you'll need to charge your electronic devices. And, you'll need to bring batteries for your cameras, etc.
MealsWhat about meals?
We've put a lot of thought into creative menu planning and exquisite locations to provide guests with exceptional dining experiences. We'll dine in places where meals are prepared using the freshest farm-to-table products available. Places that are intimate, unique, and trendy. We've sought out great chefs and have included a perfect mix of traditional and non-traditional dishes. Envision the smell of exotic spices and imaginative fusion dishes, deliciously and beautifully created to be extraordinary in every sense.
Are vegetarian meals available?
We will try to accommodate these requests as best as possible, but these options may be slightly limited in some cases. We'll do our best to ensure that restaurants can provide vegetarian options.
Can meals accommodate Celiac or others that have food allergies?
We do everything possible to ensure that you will be taken care of with no risk to your health. However, there may be places that cannot cater to you, especially in more remote locations. In those rare cases, we strongly recommend that you carry some non-perishable food for those specific times.
Harris served the Olympic movement for two decades in key management roles.
He has worked at five Olympic Games, has started four businesses and is a member of the brand team of Olympic City USA, and for Olympic top sponsors like Panasonic.
Understanding intentions, meeting expectations, activating spaces, and fostering conversations are core values he infuses into YCA’s culture.
He lives with his wife time and two daughters in Olympic City USA.In 2020, Harris was named due to YCA as “one of the top 100 visionaries in education” by the global forum on learning & education.
Donna Nelson is a strong advocate for the City and works tirelessly to include women and minorities in everything she does.
Donna serves as the City Liaison for the city’s sister city program and is a leadership team member of YCA.
Donna began her career as a Medical NCO in the United States Army, serving for nine years in the military. She was stationed overseas three times. Donna has received numerous military and community awards.
Donna has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years, has one daughter, Jasmine, and 2 extremely smart grandchildren, Soulyman and Fatima, who live in Rockford, IL.
A 20-year Air Force veteran specializing in Political-Military Affairs, International Partnership Building, and Human Resources, he is dedicated to developing young leaders of character with global perspectives.
Tad lived in Europe for 6 years with three children and traveled extensively throughout Europe and Africa.
He is passionate about creating amazing life experiences for others, educating his community through his areas of expertise, and instilling in our future servant leaders the values and tenants of the Olympic Movement.
Shreya creates opportunities for a growing community. An alumnus of the YCA class 2019, Shreya is an Olympic Torch Bearer for the Tokyo Olympic Games. She is a talented artist and has performed in Carnegie Hall, Paris, and other notable venues.
She has also won state and regional voice competitions, including a National Gold medal for the highest score in the country for voice.A Principal’s Honor Roll student, she serves in many Honor Societies at her school in leadership roles.
In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her family and is always eager to explore and discover life.
YCA offers a range of easily integrated tools so you will always be able to find friends and people they’re looking for.