Photo: Hikmat (left) with his host family.
The U.S. Department of State’s November YES Student of the Month, Hikmat Abou Shahla (YES 2017-2018, Lebanon, hosted by ACES in Oroville, CA), has demonstrated an admirable flexibility and an openness to building relationships with everyone he meets. When he arrived in California, Hikmat heard a lot of questions from classmates at school that showed unfamiliarity with his culture, including whether he eats snakes and whether his home is made of sand. He quickly tackled the situation by giving 19 presentations about his country and culture across his high school campus.
His host mother, Heather Wood, notes that, while Hikmat was already “awesome” when he arrived, since then he has adjusted to her family and participates in all its activities with great enthusiasm. He has a positive attitude toward the differences in culture and lifestyle he has encountered in his host community. As one of his many volunteer activities, he has been helping in the children’s ministry at his host family’s church as a teacher’s assistant.
At Las Plumas High School, Hikmat joined Key Club, Interact Club, and Friday Night Life, all organizations that focus on community service; they have helped boost his volunteer service hours to 55 thus far. In addition, Hikmat recently started an International Club, with support from several faculty and staff. The club now has 18 members.
Photo above: Hikmat (left) with his host siblings.
The YES student enjoys studying and has earned straight A+’s, without letting his academic interests limit his other activities. He is constantly looking for new opportunities to get involved. He enjoyed celebrating ‘Spirit Week’ for Homecoming and learning about American Football and team spirit.
Hikmat’s placement organization, ACES, considers him a wonderful ambassador for his country, who puts his best effort into everything he’s involved in. His local coordinator calls him “a confident young man with a very mature attitude mixed with the best amount of free spirit.”