Wesley Nesbitt: 2023 Bill Arnold Fellow
The Bill Arnold Leadership Award was created to remember a cherished member of our AMIGOS community. Bill Arnold passed away on August 5, 2020 after a battle with cancer. The award fund for the Bill Arnold Leadership Award was established from the support of the Arnold family and other generous donors.
Each year, we will select a volunteer or project staff member to be a Bill Arnold Fellow. Fellows must demonstrate exceptional leadership and a commitment to AMIGOS vision of a world where all people are lifelong leaders who share responsibility for our global community. The award provides each fellow with a stipend to pursue an educational or civic engagement opportunity.
About Wesley Nesbitt
I am a native Californian, born and raised in San Diego. I am a 17 year old Junior and proud member of Amigos de las Américas. As a kid I spent most of my time on the soccer field, basketball court or playing ultimate frisbee. I have always enjoyed being active and part of the community. As I started high school from home during Covid, I was looking for ways to stay engaged and also give back to the community. I heard about the AMIGOS program through my older sister. I was lucky enough to be chosen to be part of their Community Impact Project my freshman year and this experience got me hooked on the program. Sophomore year I continued to work with AMIGOS as a member of the Young Alumni Council and that summer I was in Costa Rica helping families run coffee farms. Not only was it an amazing cultural and volunteer experience but I really improved my language skills as well. This last year I have spent time volunteering as a mentor and tutor with a local organization, Casa de Amistad, a program in Solana Beach that provides tutoring to underserved elementary students. We focus on completing homework, improving math, reading, and speaking skills as well as developing excellent study skills.
I plan to put this award to use in civic engagement, as well as a unique educational experience. I have wanted to start an Ultimate Frisbee club at my high school and I would use a portion of the stipend to aid in the start up of this venture, supplying equipment and working with the other schools to coordinate games. In addition, I would put a larger portion of the money towards Casa de Amistad. I plan to work with my advisor at Casa de Amistad to put the money to work in the Dreams + Tech Initiative which gives children the ability to focus on STEM outside of school hours, helping to provide technology resources to the students and parents. Helping to fund this program will give the kids I work with the ability to improve their Math, Science, Engineering and Design skills and set them up for getting a college degree in a STEM major. Casa de Amistad is a very rewarding program that I enjoy immensely and look forward to participating in each week.
I am passionate about helping others and learning more about other cultures, and this summer I look forward to my volunteer trip to Panama. I am thankful for the leadership and volunteer opportunities the AMIGOS program has given me and I intend to use these skills as I venture off to college in a year. Although I do not yet know the type of degree I will earn, I do know that I will continue to focus on my Spanish language skills, I will travel and volunteer, and I look forward to my future, knowing that what I have learned through this program has put me on a path to success.
More About Bill Arnold’s Legacy
Bill’s journey with AMIGOS started in 1965. He was part of the first AMIGOS class of volunteers and joined the program from his home in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and while a student at Cornell University. Over the next three years, Bill helped launch the “youth-led program” model that AMIGOS has championed for more than 50 years. In 1966, he served as the senior member of the staff team, and in 1967, he served as Country Director of Guatemala. That summer, Bill met Cathy Anthony, a volunteer from Houston. They married in 1971 and their daughter Elizabeth also became an AMIGOS volunteer 30 years later.
The Arnolds have been an inspirational AMIGOS family. Both Bill and Cathy served on the Board of Directors and helped found the Atlanta Chapter in Georgia. Bill received his master’s degree in Latin American studies and became an esteemed leader in international business and government. He enjoyed a diverse career spanning senior roles in volunteer organizations, banking, government, and academia –all connected by his lifelong commitment to improving global understanding. Bill enjoyed positions with Texas Commerce Bank, the Export-Import Bank in Washington, D.C. appointed by the Reagan-Bush administration, Royal Dutch Shell (Head of International Government Relations), and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business (Professor in the Practice of Energy Management) where he pioneered new courses and taught more than 1,000 students over a decade. Bill leaves behind an indelible legacy of compassion, courage, and leadership. He will be profoundly missed by his family and friends, but also by the many lives he touched around the world. His unwavering encouragement, optimism, and confidence in each of us that knew him will forever be a source of strength and inspiration.