After months of hard work, the 10 CCF students off to the US for the Global Youth Leadership Summit were revealed

Some cried. A few were almost lost for words. And most could not stop smiling.

These were the reactions of the 10 CCF students chosen for a coveted place to represent the Cambodian Children’s Fund and their country at the Tony Robbins Global Youth Leadership Summit (GYLS) 2019 in the US.

Emotions were running high. Up for grabs were eight scholarship places as CCF ‘Ambassadors’, two bonus places and one spot for a CCF alumni.
Started in 1991, GYLS is a five-day program for 14-16 year olds to shape today’s youth to become tomorrow’s leaders capable of changing lives and communities, and places at the highly regarded event are much in demand.

There was a ripple of tension in the room at the Neeson Cripps Academy on Monday (18 Feb) as the CCF finalists gathered to learn their fate.

When Phou Sreymai, 15, heard her name read out she broke down in tears, of relief and the release of pent-up nerves.
It was a reward for her resilience. The 15-year-old applied for GYLS in 2017 but failed to win a spot, making her determined to bounce back and show the judges why she deserved another chance.

“It’s so exciting for me to do it this time,” said Sreymai.

Her fellow GYLS finalists and their strong bond had driven her throughout the process, she said, urging those who had not been successful this time to keep trying, as she did.

“Remember it’s a long journey and keep yourself as a stone, don’t break yourself down and keep moving on for what you what,” she said.
“You are all good role models and always inspire me.”

Joining Sreymai in San Diego, California, in July will be Nhoem Seak Eng, also 15, who had a lot to live up with family pride at stake, as her older brother was selected as a GYLS Ambassador a few years ago and is now studying computer science at university.

“I always say that you have to go for for your dream and I did it,” she said.
“The biggest challenge for me in America will be the language. I want to go abroad and make my mum proud.”

There was no disguising how thrilled Ros Sopheak Neath, 16, was to be among the Ambassadors as she chatted excitedly about seeing the differences between Cambodia and the US, and trying American food for the first time, but she admitted, “One part of my heart is happy and one part is really sad because some of my friends are not going (to GYLS). I know that all of them tried their best.”

One of those students who didn’t make the cut was Heang Channa, at aged 14 one of the youngest finalists, who has the consolation of knowing that next year she can try all over again.

“I am proud of myself,” said Channa. “I did my best.”

Fellow Ambassador Mak Kunthea had another reason why she so badly wanted to be on the airplane going to the US.
“My sponsor lives in California and she was the one who inspired me to apply for GYLS,” explained Kunthea, 16.
“Now I am going to America. I hope I will be able to see my sponsor when I go to GYLS. She has visited Cambodia two times.
“I feel so excited and I would like to thank my sponsor who has been very supportive of me.”

While Neoun Sreyny, 15, might be slight in stature, her talent and ambition to be the best version of herself is supersized, seeing her become the only student not at the Neeson Cripps Academy (CCF’s high school) to be picked for GYLS.

“I did believe I could do it but now I know that I can do it,” said Sreyny, who studies at CCF’s Toul Ampil satellite school.
“My mum always believes in me and that I can achieve my dream. I will go home tonight and say to her ‘Mum, I achieved my goal’ and give her a hug.”

Before then, the tearful Grade 7 student shared a hug with CCF Founder and Executive Director Scott Neeson.

Yem Mark, 15, one of three boys selected and given one of the two extra spaces to go to GYLS for consistently good scores at school, said he hoped to make new friends and experience new things on his American adventure.
“It was very important for me to go to GYLS because I know it can change my life,” said the Grade 10 student who has never been abroad before.

Having racked up a staggering 600 hours of community service, 15-year-old Sam An Rithipol got the second extra spot. He uses his spare time to help out at CCF’s Food Program, Granny Program and TOMS shoes distribution.

“I will share my experiences at GYLS with my friends, school and community when I come back,” he said. “I will learn a lot and it will motivate me.”

Full list of CCF GYLS Ambassadors:

Chuon Kimly
Mak Kunthea
Neoun Sreyny
Nhoem Seak Eng
Phon Liza
Phou Sreymai
Rong Phirun
Ros Sopheak Neath
Sam An Rithipol
Yem Mark


Nhoem Vanneit

GYLS Announcement 2019 from Cambodian Children's Fund on Vimeo.

Kate Ginn/CCF

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