Maryse Abi Haidar (Lebanon, hosted by AFS in Oshkosh, WI) has found joy in volunteering and sharing her culture. Maryse attends Oshkosh North High School and volunteers at the local food pantry, a thrift shop, a church, the YMCA (where she gives swimming lessons to children), her local library, and the Boys and Girls Club.
After arriving to her high school in the U.S., Maryse quickly became involved in several clubs and activities. She joined her school’s swim team, the Key Club, Rotary Club, Stage Society, and Student Council. In addition to participating in these organizations, she also tutors her peers in French. For International Education Week (IEW) Maryse gave presentations that taught her peers everything from Arabic writing to Lebanese dance. In the spirit of IEW, she collaborated with the other exchange students in her school to create a video about language and translation for the school’s TV station. Maryse is also a proud founder of the Arabic club at her school where she "is sharing her culture, her language, and her life and experience.”
One of Maryse’s proudest accomplishments on program so far was creating a fundraiser for the Honor Flight Network, a network that recognizes America’s veterans by transporting them to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. As Maryse’s peers raised money at school to send local veterans to Washington, D.C, she contributed to these phenomenal efforts by organizing a bake sale to raise money for the veterans. Maryse shared, “The best part of volunteering for me is seeing other people smiling! Even if you're tired and then you see that other people are smiling and happy with what you're doing for them, this will warm my heart and make me forget my tiredness and have a big smile!”
Margi Shah (India, hosted by World Link in Dinuba, CA) has proven to be a dedicated youth ambassador, an academic star, and a passionate volunteer who has completed over 100 hours of service! Margi proudly represents her country by frequently sharing traditional meals with her peers and teachers at Dinuba High School, teaching traditional songs, and performing traditional dances. During IEW she gave 36 cultural presentations, reaching an audience total of over 850!
In the world of academics, Margi maintains a 4.33 GPA while taking AP classes. She is the Art Club Representative on Student Council and a member of the Key Club, Spirit Club, and Hiking Club at school. She was also chosen to serve as the Pre-Trial Defense Lawyer for the Mock Trial Team. Having completed the season with the tennis team, she has joined the basketball team and earned a role in the school play.
Volunteering is no stranger to Margi. She collected 250 inspirational letters for Syrian refugees by creating and broadcasting a YouTube video during school announcements, making her a top collector for YES Alumni Bulgaria’s “Letters of Hope” campaign. She joined Kiwanis Club’s “Community Paper-Pick Up,” recycling 75 pounds of newspapers. Children were all smiles after visiting Margi at the face-painting booth during the “Family Fun Night” Halloween event in her community. She enjoyed 20 hours caring for rescued horses for the Way Ranch Association. In her spare time, Margi also cleans the Veteran’s Monument Building. Finally, seized an opportunity to learn about the U.S. political system while giving back to her host country by volunteering to register Americans to vote.
Both Maryse Abi Haidar and Margi Shah have shown an impressive ability to balance the duties of cultural ambassador, student, and volunteer!