YES Programs


Alumni Resources

The YES Alumni Program wishes to engage YES alumni in building a worldwide YES community to continue building bridges as citizens around the world. The resources offered aim to provide tools to help YES alumni build these bridges and cultivate their leadership skills.


Community Health Powerpoint

Presentation powerpoint on how establish a community health project by Joyce Kilikpo Jarwalo.


Project Sustainability Powerpoint

Powerpoint on increasing the sustainability of project by Simona Ristovska.


Project Management Powerpoint

Powerpoint on the three stages of project management by Hassan Saeed.


Partnerships Powerpoint

Powerpoint on best practices for building partnerships by Dima Helou.


Evaluation Process Example Template

Example template for the evaluation process of the Water School project by Marouane Smaili.


Monitoring and Evaluation Presentation

Powerpoint presentation on monitoring and evaluation projects by Dr. Agha Ajmal


My Experience with Evaluation Presentation

Powerpoint presentation on two examples of evaluation in service projects by Marouane Smaili.


Career Development Presentation

Powerpoint presentation on how to be a competitive candidate in the job market by Jimi Tewe. 


Lead for GYSD Powerpoint

Powerpoint used during Lead for GYSD Webinar



Sports for Development and Peace

Rachel Markowitz

Geraldine Go-Bernardo

Nasir Ahmad

Sports for Development and Peace - YES Alumni Webinar

What if you could foster peace, promote mutual understanding, and empower a community through a game of football or ultimate frisbee?

Guess what?....You can!

Sports are universal bridges to overcome differences in culture and develop cross-cultural communication. The YES Alumni Sports for Development and Peace webinar took place on Tuesday, July 11 at 9AM EDT to educate the alumni community about projects and activities that use sports to promote development and peace. Experts in the field provided knowledge, tools, and resources for all attendees. Alumni, on-program students, and organizations learned how to effectively utilize sports to influence change in their communities.

This webinar was open to all YES and YES Abroad alumni as well as on-program students. 

If you missed the webinar, you can still be inspired to utilize sports to make a positive change in your community by watching the recording of this webinar on the YES YouTube channel and Vimeo! You can also watch it again on Facebook Live

Meet The Panel: 

Rachel Markowitz, YES Senior Program Officer at AMIDEAST

Originally from Kansas, Rachel spent five years in Morocco where she conducted research as a Fulbright Scholar and worked in international education. At the University of Texas at Austin, Rachel earned a Master’s in Global Policy Studies and focused on international development and conflict. Rachel’s thesis was on sports for development and peace based on her experiences facilitating sports programs in Morocco, Rwanda, and Israel/Palestine. She now serves as the YES Senior Program Officer at AMIDEAST in Washington, DC. Her favorite sport is Ultimate and she plays on a competitive women’s club team called Suffrage.

Geraldine “Dina” Go-Bernardo holds a B.S. in Physical Therapy from the University of the Philippines and a Master’s Degree in Business Management at the Asian Institute of Management (A.I.M). A recipient of various training seminars from the Philippine Chamber of Commerce, International Labor Organization and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Dina became the first Filipina, in 2012, to be accepted into the inaugural class of the Global Sports Mentoring Program for emerging women sports leaders -- under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State and espnW. 

Nasir Adu Ahmad (YES '09) is the President of the YES Ghana Alumni Association, a board member of AFS Ghana, and organizer of the YES Peace Games in Ghana. Nasir executed the YES Peace Games in order to promote an atmosphere of peace in his community and to empower youth to be agents of change in their communities.


Cross-Country Collaboration

Hela Nafti

Shebnem Niazi

Jennifer Russell
United States

Cross Country Collaboration - YES Alumni Webinar

Every day YES alumni work together to implement sustainable projects impacting their communities. But what if alumni wanted to support a project organized by alumni in another country? Is this possible?...YES! There are so many ways YES alumni can support their peers all over the globe and many of them found out how on the Cross-Country Collaboration webinar! 

The Cross-Country Collaboration webinar on Thursday, June 1 at 9AM EDT focused on how to support the projects of other alumni in YES countries around the globe. The panel of speakers included Jennifer Russell, Director of Education at iEARN-USA, Héla Nafti, TEARN Country Coordinator, and Shebnem Niazi,YES 2013-2014 and YES Alumni Coordinator of Bulgaria. The speakers provided tips for remote participation in projects happening in other YES countries and tools to use to collaborate with alumni from other countries. 

If you missed the webinar, you can still learn be inspired to engage in cross country collaboration by watching the recording of this webinar on the YES YouTube channel and Vimeo!

Meet the Panel

Jennifer Russell, Director of Education at iEARN-USA

As Director of Education, Jennifer provides expertise, leadership, and coordination in the development and promotion of iEARN-USA's virtual exchange program strategies, tools, and network. In this role, she designs projects, resources, trainings, and online courses for teachers and youth to increase their technology and cross-cultural collaboration skills. Prior to joining iEARN-USA, Jennifer was a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania and China where she was a teacher trainer and taught English as a foreign language at the primary and secondary level. 

Héla Nafti, TEARN Country Coordinator

Héla Nafti is the Country Coordinator for TEARN, iEARN Tunisia, and is also the Senior Inspector for English Language Teaching in Tunis, Tunisia. She trains teachers and works for the development and implementation of the educational reform in Tunisia. She has been the iEARN Country Coordinator in Tunisia since 2004 and formally launched TEARN as an association in 2011. She has trained many teachers across the country in online project-based learning and leads citizenship activities for teachers and youth, focusing on improving understanding between communities and empowering youth with 21st Century skills to help them build a better world. 

Shebnem Niazi, YES 2013-2014 and YES Alumni Coordinator of Bulgaria

After returning from her YES exchange year in the U.S., Shebnem's passion to understand the multifaceted interconnectedness among nation-states, international institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and ethnic, cultural, and religious groups never faded away. Shebnem joined the members of the YES Alumni Association in Bulgaria and participated in and implemented several projects including the renovation of public spaces, social awareness campaigns, and donation drives. Shebnem decided to broaden her worldview and the scope of her volunteering by teaching English at the Sri Udom orphanage in rural Thailand. Being a part of a group of people who work together cooperatively, communicating and coordinating openly to achieve a shared goal, made Shebnem realize the importance of cross-country collaboration. As Alumni Coordinator, inspired by the Interfaith Harmony Workshop (IHW), Shebi initiated the Letters of Hope for Refugees project. The campaign's goal was to provide messages of support and solidarity from around the world to asylum seekers in Bulgaria. The project ended up having over 1,200 participants from 5 continents and 18 countries. Currently Shebnem is in her gap year. Starting in the fall, she will be attending the New York University in Abu Dhabi where she plans to pursue a degree in Social Research and Public Policy.


GYSD 2017!

Yutthakrit Chalermthai

YES Alumni Webinar - GYSD 2017!

From brainstorming to budgeting, planning a Global Youth Service Day project can be challenging sometimes. That's why we organized the YES Alumni webinar for GYSD on Thursday, March 30, 2017. The webinar was a dynamic, interactive experience that fused together GYSD webinars from the past. It was a complete mashup that focused on the purpose of GYSD, budgeting, and the actual steps for planning a successful GYSD project. The webinar prepared the greater YES community for GYSD weekend in April 2017 and served as a tool for alumni to explore community service ideas and to start their own service projects. Both YES alumni and on-program students were encouraged to attend.

The special guest presenter was YES alumnus, Yutthakrit Chalermthai (YES 2008-2009, Thailand, hosted by AFS in Chesaning, MI). Yutthakrit is the founder and the first President of the YES Thai Alumni Association. After fulfilling his cultural exchange year in the U.S., Yutthakrit initiated and implemented more than 10 community service projects! He also started a social enterprise project called "Mushroom for Much More" which involves cultivating and selling mushrooms in order to financially support families living in poverty. During the webinar, Yutthakrit offered participants strategies, tools, & tips for starting their own GYSD projects.

If you missed the webinar, you can still learn how to plan and implement your GYSD project by watching the recording of this webinar on the YES YouTube channel or Vimeo!

Don't forget to register your project with Youth Service America here!


YES SHE CAN: Projects for the Empowerment of Girls and Women

Tasneem Kibria


YES SHE CAN: Projects for the Empowerment of Girls and Women Webinar

Many YES alumni are joining the movement to empower girls and women in communities around the world. In celebration of International Day of the Girl, the YES Alumni YES SHE CAN: Projects for the Empowerment of Girls and Women webinar effectively organized projects and activities pertaining to the advancement of girls around the globe, gave insight into inspirational projects and activities YES alumni have accomplished in the past, and informed the YES community about United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

This webinar was open to all YES and YES Abroad alumni as well as on-program students. 

If you missed the webinar, you can still be inspired to empower women and girls in your community by watching the recording of this webinar on the YES YouTube channel and Vimeo!

Tasneem Kibria Orpa

Meet The Panel: 

Tasneem Kibria (YES 2013-2014, Bangladesh, hosted by AYUSA in Houston, TX) is the treasurer of YES Alumni Bangladesh and the former 'Shadow' Ambassador for Her Excellency, Marcia Bernicat, to promote young women's leadership, an initiative by the Dutch Ambassador of Bangladesh. As a member of YES Alumni Bangladesh, Tasneem has helped organize and implement alumni projects for the advancement of girls such as, "3.5 Billion Reasons" and "Self Defense 101".

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Portia Akua Yeboaa (YES '17) is the founder of the "Red Elephant Project" which provides feminine hygiene supplies to girls in Ghana. As part of this much-needed project in her community, Portia translates information pertaining to menstruation in her native language in order for girls to gain education pertaining to this topic. Portia also helps create sanitary kits for girls which includes reusable sanitary pads and a guidebook to educate girls about menstruation. 


A STRONGER COMMUNITY: Engaging YES Alumni and Students with Disabilities

Susan Sygall
United States

Olivia Hardin
United States

Celine Lin

A Stronger Community - Engaging YES Alumni and Students with Disabilities

In preparation of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, A STRONGER COMMUNITY - Engaging YES Alumni and Students with Disabilities (YES Alumni Webinar) focused on helping the YES community create a more inclusive, engaging experience for students and alumni with disabilities. Attendees joined the webinar on Thursday, November 30 at 9AM EDT to:

  • Motivate YES and YES Abroad alumni with disabilities to participate in projects and activities in their communities. 
  •  Increase knowledge about organizing inclusive volunteer projects. 

This webinar was also equipped with tools and opportunities to help students and alumni be as active as possible in their communities.

This webinar was open to all YES and YES Abroad alumni as well as on-program students. 

If you missed the webinar, you can still learn more about increasing inclusivity for all by watching the recording of this webinar on the YES YouTube channel and Vimeo!

Meet The Panel: 

Susan Sygall, CEO and Co-founder of MIUSA

As CEO and co-founder of Mobility International USA, Susan is an internationally recognized expert in the area of international educational exchange and leadership programs for persons with disabilities. Susan, a wheelchair rider, has had a personal and professional commitment to disability rights and women's issues for more than 30 years. She has co-authored numerous publications in the area of international exchange and international development opportunities for persons with disabilities and co-produced several award winning videos. Susan has lectured throughout the world on a variety of topics related to inclusive development, international exchange and disability rights. 

A graphic about Susan Sygall

Olivia Hardin, Program Specialist for MIUSA 

Olivia has worked in the field of international education for over ten years. At MIUSA, her primary responsibilities include providing technical assistance to support students with disabilities on U.S. Department of State exchange programs and being part of the core team that hosts exchange students with disabilities for disability-related orientations in Eugene, OR. Olivia’s articles have appeared in many publications such as EducationUSA Connections and Global Study Magazine.

Celine speaks into a microphone

Celine Lean Yew Lin (YES 2013-2014, Malaysia, hosted by AFS in Nashville, TN) a visually impaired YES alumna, launched The Gift of Sight Community Project to produce holistic and accessible educational materials for students at the Setapak Special School for the Blind in Kuala Lumpur and to raise awareness about persons with disabilities. Celine is also committed to strengthening her alumni community by volunteering at YES Alumni Malaysia and participating in several alumni projects.


2018 Alumni Grants Webinar

Jeni St John
United States

2018 Alumni Grants-Due February 15!

2018 is going to be an exciting year for the YES program – it’s the YES 15th Anniversary! 2018 will also usher in a new cycle of YES Alumni Grants. Want to commemorate the 15th anniversary in the most impactful way possible? Why not apply for a YES Alumni Grant to start a project in your community that you are passionate about? From an alumni mentoring program or holding a workshop on countering violent extremism in your community, the possibilities to make a difference through a YES Alumni Grant are endless. 

The 2018 application opened on December 15, and the deadline is February 15. A recording of the webinar on the grants application process can be found here and the online application can be found here.

Need more inspiration for grant project idea? Read on to learn about some of the amazing projects alumni did in the 2016-17 grant year. 

Priya Parkash, (YES ’15) Pakistan, hosted by AFS in Camarillo, CA, received grant funding to conduct Better Understanding for a Better World (BUBW) Pakistan, an interfaith dialogue event in Karachi (photo above). Recognizing that interfaith dialogue is a delicate area to address in Pakistan, Priya became excited when she attended BUBW in the U.S. to find an innovative approach to introduce the topic in her home country. Thirty-five YES alumni participants attended the BUBW workshop which utilized a training of trainers’ model. The workshop included a panel discussion, leadership sessions, expert speakers, and visits to various houses of worship.


Marklyn Fortune, (YES ’11) Liberia, hosted by AFS in Florence, SC, received grant funding to conduct Promoting Environmental Education and Understanding Climate ChangeThe project aimed to educate and discourage environmental degradation in rural communities in Liberia caused by illegal logging of trees and harmful farming methods. Marklyn and the alumni team conducted an environmental education series that taught 25 students from various high schools about environmental awareness. Activities included the planting of 200 trees across several communities.


Nendi Solomon Lukolm, (YES ’06) Nigeria, hosted by IRIS in Washington County, IA, received grant funding to conduct Millenium Volunteers Peace Camp in his city of Jos in Plateau State. Plateau State has been experiencing religious violence and social tensions, driving large numbers of orphans and internally displaced persons to refugee camps. The Millennium project was designed to introduce youth to volunteerism and community service, as well as leadership skills. The grant allowed 30 participants between the ages 15 to 20 to attend the camp. The participants engaged in discussion about organizing community projects, fundraising, skills acquisition, self-expression, community motivation, volunteerism, peacebuilding, and conflict management.

Maxim Jordan Dongmo Ymelong, (YES ’14) Cameroon, hosted by PAX in Salt Lake City, UT, received grant funding to conduct English Language and Culture Promotion Program (ELCPP). ELCPP was a six-month program of weekly English and computer science classes for 150 students from a local underserved primary school in Lefeh-Bafou. The alumnus established a small library at the school and volunteered as an English teacher. He also held a conference at the school to highlight the importance of English and discuss social issues such as the environment, civic education, and volunteering.


Hassani Masanga, (YES ’09) Tanzania, hosted by IRIS in Cedar Rapids, IA, received grant funding to conduct Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Education for Secondary School Students. The initiative recruited 17 medical students and three teachers as educators providing sexual and reproductive health and rights education to 200 mostly female secondary school students in grades 9 to 11 in Tanga, an underserved region on the Kenyan border. During a two-day seminar, students were taught reproductive health and rights focusing on topics including puberty, menstrual hygiene, sex and sexuality, teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexual transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and gender-based violence.



Mustahsin Islam, (YES ’08), Bangladesh, hosted by YFU in Seattle, WA, received grant funding to conduct 3.5 Billion Reasons, a leadership training program for young urban and rural women. 3.5 Billion Reasons sought to close the gap of education and leadership opportunities between urban and rural female students in Bangladesh by training female students and equipping them with tools to pursue higher education. The project organized a workshop in Dhaka for 18 female high school students, with one urban and one rural student paired together. Each pair was assigned a mentor, who worked with the two high schools girls over a three-month period. In the second phase of the project, mentees implemented projects in their own communities to bring about awareness of sexual harassment and child marriage, introduce educational opportunities for women and girls, and create clubs at their schools and institutions.


Malsore Jusufi, (YES ’15) Kosovo, hosted by American Councils for International Education PO in St. Louis, MO, received grant funding to conduct a Spelling  Bee at her former middle school in her hometown of Podujeve. Malsore worked with 26 students for three weeks to build their English vocabulary prior to the spelling bee. Twelve students were selected to participate in the spelling bee, which was held in front of an audience of 100 family members, students, and school faculty and staff. The first place winner was invited to participate in the second annual National Kosovo English Spelling Bee, which is organized by Kosovo Peace Corps volunteers and took place in Prishtina in May 2017. 

The YES Alumni Grants program is available to all YES and YES Abroad alumni to enable them to contribute to the social, economic, and civic development of their countries, and aims to support community service activities and events that promote civic participation in the following areas: climate change, conflict resolution, education, entrepreneurship, environment, interfaith and strategic dialogues, micro-economic development, professional development, promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotion of English language and American culture, public health, sustainable energy, teaching programs, and women’s and girls’ empowerment. 


YES 15th Anniversary Webinar

Natalie Rehberger

Jeni St John
United States

Sleiman Sleiman

YES 15th Anniversary Webinar

YES is celebrating its 15th Anniversary! To kick off the celebration the YES program hosted a webinar on January 31, 2018. The webinar shared information on the various events that will be taking place throughout the year and opportunities for the YES community to participate no matter where they are in the world. Webinar participants listened to YES alumni from the first generation of YES to learn about the impact of the program over the past 15 years.

This webinar was open to all YES and YES Abroad alumni as well as on-program students. 

Natalie Profile 2

Natalie Rehberger is driven by her desire to increase cross-cultural understanding throughout the world, one human connection at a time. She is a 2012 YES Abroad alumna to Indonesia which led her to pursue a BA in Business and International Studies with a focus on Asia Studies from the Evergreen State College. While living in India, she was an International Marketing intern for an Indian tech company. Her first job after college was as the head of an editorial department at a Chinese company overseeing writers from around the world. Natalie proceeded to create a Chinese study abroad program under the guidance of a Chinese study abroad company, which taught her invaluable cross-cultural skills and exposed her to the world of international education as a career path. She currently lives in New York City as a Participant Support Specialist at AFS-USA and plans to get her MA in International Education to further her career at AFS and later for the Department of State where she wants to further cross-cultural understanding through encouraging international education as a Foreign Service Officer.

Sleiman Sleiman

Sleiman Sleiman participated in the first cohort of the YES program in Lebanon (YES '04) and was placed by ASSE in Toledo, Ohio. Upon finishing high school in Lebanon, he returned to the U.S. where he studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Toledo, staying connected with his host community and family. He later returned to Lebanon to lead the technical department at Advanced Plastic Industries, a plastic piping company, while finishing a Master's in Engineering at the American University of Beirut. Sleiman is currently pursuing his MBA at McGill University in Montreal. Sleiman is a founding member of Lebanon's YES Alumni Chapter and remains involved in a mentoring and advisory capacity. 

Don't forget to use hashtag #KLYES15 on social media to show us how you'll be celebrating! 


Webinar: Community Health

Joyce Kilikpo Jarwalo

Ashfaq Hussain

YES Alumni Webinar: Community Health

The YES Alumni Community Health webinar took place on July 25, 2016, and featured Joyce Kilikpo Jarwolo and YES alumnus Ashfaq Hussain. Joyce is the Founder and Executive Director of Public Health Initiative Liberia (PHIL), a national public health organization that works to improve and increase access to quality health care for Liberians. PHIL works with communities to educate and empower them to protect themselves and their families, and played a major role in helping Liberia manage the Ebola crisis. In addition to starting PHIL, Joyce was also a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow, which is a fellowship started by Barack Obama for young African leaders. She has also worked in many capacities within community health, including as the Senior Malaria Officer and Health Coordinator at the Liberian Red Cross and the Health Delegate (advisor) at the Norwegian Red Cross in Haiti.

During the webinar, Joyce used her vast experience in community health to give alumni ideas for different ways they can help their communities. In addition to that, YES alumnus Ashfaq Hussain (YES 2014-2015, hosted by PAX in Blair, WI) shared about the three community health projects this year. Since returning home from the U.S. in 2015, Ashfaq has worked with other YES alumni and medical professionals to bring health services to people living in rural Pakistan. During each of the three Medical Camps he has implemented, Ashfaq and his team gave free check-ups to people who live in remote areas and generally do not receive health care. After their check-ups, the patients who needed it also received free medicine from the Medical Camp team. Ashfaq gave step-by-step instructions on how he organized and ran the camps so that other alumni can organize similar projects in their home communities.

Even if you missed the webinar, you can still learn from this expert panel by watching the recording on YouTube or Vimeo. You can also see their presentations on the YES Alumni Resources page!


Global Youth Service Day Panel Discussion

Simona Ristovska
North Macedonia

Hassan Saeed

Dima Helou
West Bank

YES Alumni Webinar: GYSD Panel

Global Youth Service Day is coming up soon! Do you already know what community service you will do for GYSD from April 15-17? If you are still looking for new and exciting project ideas, or if you have a project in mind but want to know how to make it more successful, clear your calendar for the next YES alumni webinar!

On April 1, 2016, a panel of alumni, featuring Simona Ristovska, Hassan Saeed, and Dima Helou will each share top Global Youth Service Day projects from their respective alumni associations. Not only will they share project ideas, but each panelist will also discuss a key to success from his/her project. Join the webinar to hear their tips on brainstorming project ideas, developing partnerships, and creating sustainable projects!

See you on April 1 at 10am EST! (Don't miss the event because of the time difference, check what time it will be in your community!)  

Meet the Panel

Simona Ristovska, YES 2009-2010, Macedonia, hosted by World Link in Washington, Iowa

After returning from the YES program, Simona became the YES Alumni Coordinator in Macedonia. During her 4 years in this position, she organized over 50 alumni projects, and has also worked closely with the alumni to mentor them on how to start their own projects. She earned a bachelor's degree in Economics with a focus on Financial Management. When asked about volunteering, she said, "Our YES community tries to engage as many people as we can in our projects, not just alumni. Our goal each year is to have as many projects as possible, especially for GYSD."

Hassan Saeed, YES 2008-2009, Pakistan, hosted by ASSE in Topeka, KS

Since returning to Pakistan in 2009, Hassan has been engaged in many community service projects, and has especially focused on developing capacity buillding for students and teachers through social media activism. Hassan completed his Bachelor's degree in Social Sciences at the Institute of Management Sciences in Peshawar, and has had the opportunity to grow professionally by attending a number of global trainings, including the Training of Trainers Workshop in Indonesia, International Conference and Youth Summit in Qatar, YES Alumni Leadership Training in Jordan, and Team Leader for National Citizen Service Program in England. He has worked as a Program Officer for the Society for International Education for the past 4 years, and was named one of the 44 most influential youth in the world in 2013 by Youth Leader Magazine and UNESCO. He is also part of the organizing team for the Madina Leadership Program, which will take place in Turkey in June 2016. Hassan loves to initiate and engage in community service activities and is passionate about helping his fellow alumni develop.

Dima Helou, YES 2013-2014, West Bank, hosted by AYA in Houston, TX

In 2014, after completing her YES year, Dima returned to Palestine to finish her senior year of high school, and got involved with doing community service with her YES Alumni Association. She is currently majoring in International Business at the Lebanese American University in Lebanon, and has applied for the Tomorrow's Leaders Scholarship through the MEPI Program. In addition to that, Dima is the Vice President of the Public Relations Committee of the AIESEC, which is the largest youth-run organization in the world.



Samiur Rahman

YES Alumni Webinar: Crowdfunding

Do you wish you had more funding for your community service projects? Do you have ideas for volunteering projects that you have never been able to implement because you do not have enough financial capital? The YES alumni webinar on February 12, 2016 addressed these issues by teaching alumni how to raise money through a new source: crowdfunding! The webinar also provided step-by-step instructions on how to start a crowdfunding campaign and shared best practices for successful campaigns!

YES '14 alumnus Samiur Rahman from Bangladesh led the webinar and shared his crowdfunding expertise. After Samiur returned from Rush Springs, OK, where he was hosted by CIEE, he began volunteering with the YES Alumni Association in Bangladesh. However, when the association wanted to help the children at the Shongraish Shishu Poribar Orphanage celebrate Ramadan in 2014, they realized they needed to more money in order to make the event as impactful as possible. Seeing this, Samiur began looking into alternative funding options, which is how he discovered crowdfuning. He created a crowdfunding campaign for the project, and in the end, was able to raise $1500 USD for the orphans!

Even if you missed the webinar, you can still learn all of his tips by watching the recording of this webinar on the YES YouTube and Vimeo channels!



Presentation Skills 101

Dawoud Zahran
West Bank

YES Webinar: Presentation Skills 101

People consistently rank public speaking as one of their top phobias, so YES alumnus Dawoud Zahran thought it would be helpful to offer a webinar training on how to give a great presentation. 

Dawoud, a YES 2011-2012 alumnus from West Bank, led the webinar on November 12, just in time for International Education Week 2015! As a matter of fact, Dawoud himself learned how to give presentations during his exchange year, but since then, he has begun training others in public speaking and presenting. He has participated in leadership and development workshops around the world, including ISFIT and ActionAid, and has served as Palestine's YES Alumni Project Coordinator. He is currently a Research Fellow at King's College in London, working with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The Presentation Skills 101 webinar was attended by current YES and YES Abroad students, as well as alumni of both programs. Everyone agreed that the strategies Dawoud gave for how to structure a presentation, prepare for speaking in public, and keep an audience engaged were extremely helpful. As an added bonus, YES alumni who attended the webinar shared their own tips for how to give a quality presentation in the chat box!

If you missed the webinar, you can watch a recording of it on YouTube or Vimeo!


Motivating Youth Volunteers

Olga Elisa

Hanan Anwar

Nazrin Ariffin

YES Alumni Webinar: Motivating Youth Volunteers

The alumni webinar held on September 16, 2015 discussed strategies for how to motivate others to start volunteering, how to keep current volunteers engaged, and how to use technology to mobilize volunteers!

The webinar was run by Olga Elisa, the program manager for Do Something Indonesia, which is part of the global social action organization, So far, over 4 million youth volunteers have joined the global movement, which calls on young people to use digital platforms to work on a wide range of current issues, including climate change, education, violence and poverty. Olga has always believed that the Internet and social media have the power to influence positive change in the world. Through Do Something Indonesia, she has found a way to harness that power by utilizing technology to mobilize youth to volunteer. During the webinar, she discussed her motivational strategies and offered tips for how they can implemented by YES alumni in their local communities.

Nazrin Ariffin (YES '10) and Hanan Anwar (YES '10) from Malaysia provided an alumni perspective on how they have motivate youth in their area to volunteer. They discussed the SoundsGood concert they organized this year, which was free for youth to enter and which aimed to motivate others to volunteer. Nazrin and Hanan shared how they planned the event, how they reached out to other organizations and developed partnerships, and what the results of the concert have been.

The alumni who attended the webinar said that it was very helpful and that they learned new strategies for how to motivate others. If you missed the webinar, you can watch a recording of it on YouTube or Vimeo!

YES Alumni Participants:

Nazrin Ariffin, YES 2009-2010, Malaysia, hosted by AFS in Wassau, WI

Hanan Anwar, YES 2009-2010, Malaysia, hosted by AFS in St. Louis, MO


GYSD - Helping Others on a Budget

Katherine Gerber
United States

YES Alumni Webinar: GYSD- Helping Others on a Budget

Global Youth Service Day is just around the corner! Many YES alumni are dedicated to service and giving back to their communities; however, it can also be difficult to find funding for projects and events. The YES Alumni Webinar, “GYSD: Helping Others on a Budget” that took place on March 17, 2015, addressed those difficulties and gave alumni strategies for how to plan and implement great projects on a budget. 

The webinar was hosted by Katherine Gerber, the Director of Outreach at Youth Service America. Katherine oversees the staff and programs that build capacity of local, national and international groups to create and scale high-impact youth service projects. This includes YSA’s signature campaign, Global Youth Service Day, and the Global Youth Service Network, an international coalition of organizations committed to positive youth development. She also serves as an advisor to YSA’s Youth Council. Katherine joined YSA in June 2012 as Manager of Outreach for National and Global Partnerships.

During the webinar, Katherine gave the alumni ideas for service projects that require very little funding, and taught them how to help others on a budget. She also discussed how to plan a project and register for GYSD, and helped alumni set up a timeline for their projects. In addition to that, Katherine highlighted new sources of funding for the alumni that they many had not have thought of before, such as crowdsourcing and creating partnerships with local businesses.

After attending the webinar, 78% of participants reported that they felt confident about running their own GYSD project! If you missed the webinar, you can get all of Katherine's advice and boost your own confidence by watching the recording of it on YouTube or Vimeo.


Project Evaluation

Marouane Smaili

Agha Ajma

YES Alumni Webinar: Project Evaluation

Marouane Smaili, a YES 2007-2008 alumnus from Morocco, hosted by Ayusa in Tucson, AZ was one of the presenters of the YES Alumni Webinar.

How do you measure the success of your alumni projects? Are they as effective as they could be? Evaluating projects is an easy way to help improve your work in the future and clearly show the impact your projects have, which can help you gain support from funders and your community.

The YES Alumni Webinar: Project Evaluation, held on March 4, 2015 at 9:00am EST,  focused on the above questions, as well as the benefits of evaluation and professional strategies and tips for how to evaluate projects. The webinar was led by Dr. Agha Ajmal, who is a Fulbright scholar, currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Health Services Policy and Management from the University of South Carolina. Dr. Ajmal, originally from Karachi, Pakistan, has specialized in Health Program Monitoring and Evaluation, meaning that he develops evaluation frameworks and conducts cutting edge work in the area of health evaluation. He has done such work on his many publications and reports, including the Tawana Pakistan Project, for which he served as the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research Coordinator. The project served 500,000 primary school girls in poor rural provinces of Pakistan. Throughout his career, he has also served as the Head of the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit at the Tawana Project and the Acting Head of the Community Health Integrator of the Department of Community Health Sciences at Aga Khan University. 

Marouane Smaili, YES ’08, also presented on the webinar, and provided a YES Alumni perspective to evaluation. Since he has returned form his year in the U.S., Marouane has earned a Masters in Marketing and Sales Operations at ENCG Business School in Agadir and is currently working as a Communication Officer and Project Coordinator at an NGO called Dar Si Hmad. Through his professional projects and community service initiatives, Marouane has developed various skills related to project evaluation, and has tips on how to apply them to your YES Small Grant projects. Together, Dr. Ajmal and Marouane discussed the benefits of evaluation, methods for evaluation and how to best utilize your results. 

The alumni who attended the webinar learned a lot and were very excited to start utilizing their new knowledge in their future projects. Amadu from Sierra Leone said, "Now I know that Evaluation and Monitoring are necessary for a sucessful project, and this webinar will serve as a great tool for my current project as well as for the YES alumni Sierra Leone." Another alumnus who attended said, "We have experienced a lot from this webinar, it is time to start putting it into practice!" If you missed the webinar, you can watch a recording of it on YouTube or Vimeo.



LinkedIn for YES Alumni Jobseekers

Abeer D. Abu Ghaith

Jimi Tewe

YES Alumni Webinar: LinkedIn for YES Alumni Job Seekers

The YES Alumni network has over 7,800 passionate, dedicated, and energetic students and young professionals from 46 different countries. Around the world, YES Alumni Associations and their members are actively engaged in community development projects, leadership initiatives and inventive new ways to use technology. 

YES Pakistan alumni Komal Hira and Ali Zen participated in technology workshops this year.

October marked the launch of the YES Alumni LinkedIn Group page, which made it the perfect time to take a closer look at LinkedIn as a career and networking tool for YES alumni. Alumni learned how to use the LinkedIn website to enhance their professional lives at the YES Alumni Webinar: LinkedIn for YES Alumni Job Seekers. The alumni also learned how LinkedIn can be used as a tool to jumpstart their careers and stay connected with other YES Alumni.

The webinar was led by Abeer D. Abu Ghaith, Chairperson and CEO of StayLinked, Career Guidance Supervisor at the Center of Entrepreneurship and Career Development in Palestine Polytechnic University, “Best Technology Enabler and Facilitator” at the 2014 MEA Women in Technology Awards, one of CEO Middle East magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women and the personality of month for Innovation in the January 2014 edition of “This Week in Palestine Magazine.” She leads trainings for youth on social media, employment and entrepreneurship, and has presented at multiple international and regional conferences. Born in Jordan in 1984, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron, Palestine.

With over 70 million members in 200 countries worldwide, LinkedIn is a tool that is able to jumpstart and enhance the professional development and interconnectedness of YES alumni. Since YES alumni are already active on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, imagine the incredible potential for this group on a platform to that is used solely to communicate and share professional experiences, contacts and opportunities! If you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording and download the materials here:!




Global Youth Service Day 2018 Webinar

Mohammed Kiawu

Emily McGlone
United States

YES Global Youth Service Day Webinar

Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) celebrates and encourages young people around the world to make a positive global impact by giving their time and efforts to improve their communities. To help YES alumni prepare for GYSD, YES programs hosted a webinar on March 29 at 9AM EDT that explored strategies to organize and carry out a GYSD project, specifically one that aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). 

The webinar reviewed the SDGs and provided strategies on how to expand the impact and sustainability of GYSD projects by thinking within the SDG context. Special guest speakers, Emilie McGlone and Mohammed Kiawu, shared their work and projects to highlight the direct impact of youth-driven service in achieving the SDGs. Webinar participants gained the skills to link service projects to the UN SDGs and strengthened the impact and sustainability of their GYSD projects. 

To read more about GYSD please visit the Youth Service Association website, and consider registering your GYSD project.

GYSD is the largest service event in the world!

GYSD Webinar Guest Speaker

Headshot of YES alum, Mohammed B. Kiawu from Liberia

Mohammed B. Kiawu is a YES alumnus (YES 2010-2011, Liberia, hosted by YFU in Ann Arbor, MI) who is passionate about the SDGs and community service. Mohammed has attended numerous conferences, workshops, and trainings that have helped shape him to be the community mobilizer that he is today. The most recent training that Mohammed attended was the YES SDG 2030 Summit for West Africa in Accra, Ghana. After the summit Mohammed returned to Liberia and co-hosted a capacity building workshop on the SDGs for YES alumni across Liberia. Mohammed is currently volunteering with a local organization called Sustainable Development Solutions Network-Youth, a youth initiative that mobilizes global expertise around the SDGs. Mohammed is also working on a Civic Education Program for rural women and girls called “Promoting Gender Equality,” which aims to train fifty females with the leadership skills and knowledge to participate in the governance of their communities.

Headshot of Emilie McGlone

Emilie McGlone has been working with Peace Boat since 2004 and currently is the United Nations liaison and Director of the New York-based office of Peace Boat US, a non-profit organization working to promote peace, sustainable development and respect for the environment through educational programs organized onboard the Peace Boat, a chartered passenger ship that travels the world on peace voyages. Peace Boat holds Special Consultative Status with the Social and Economic Council of the United Nations and works in partnership with UN representatives, Nobel Peace Laureates and community leaders from around the world to create opportunities for international cooperation focused on environmental sustainability, cultural awareness and peace education. Emilie works to foster youth education and develops specific programs to learn about important global issues onboard the Peace Boat. 


Reverse Culture Shock Webinar 2018

Merima Muhic
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mahamadou Lamine Bagayoko

Abdalaziz Abuzayed

Shine Santos

Amna Bhutta

Reverse Culture Shock Webinar

Over 700 YES students from 35 countries, placed in all 50 states, recently returned back to their home after spending an exciting year in the U.S. As previous YES students, you all can relate to how ten months in a new culture can lead to a lot of personal changes. New habits are formed, mannerisms picked up, communication styles changed, and attitudes shifted. All these new experiences and personal growth can make it a challenge to re-adjust to life back home. When you come to America you are expected to be met with difficulties and challenges while adjusting to a new lifestyle; but perhaps you didn’t expect the reverse: re-adjusting to the culture and lifestyle you grew up in. Culture shock is a phenomenon that is frequently discussed as one goes into a new culture, but the opposite is rarely explored – what is it like to return home after a year in the United States and exposure to a new set of cultures, traditions, and lifestyles. It can truly be disorienting to return home.

As the newest cohort of YES alumni was settling back into their home countries, YES program held the Reverse Culture Shock Webinar (July 31, 2018 at 9AM EDT) featuring YES alumni from around the world. We invited all YES alumni, whether they had been back home for six years or six weeks, to join the conversation about reverse culture shock. YES staff and supporters were also encouraged to join the webinar for insight on common challenges and best practices for YES alumni dealing with reverse culture shock.

This webinar invited a panel of YES alumni from all the Recruiting Organizations (AMIDEAST, iEARN, IRIS, American Councils, and AFS) and represented regions around the world to discuss what it is like for YES alumni to re-adjust to life in their home countries. The Reverse Culture Shock Webinar took the form of a virtual roundtable discussion with five alumni sharing their experiences with reverse culture shock, and strategies and tactics to overcome obstacles. The YES alumni panelists shared their experiences of settling back into their home communities and created an open dialogue about some of the biggest barriers.

Meet Our Panelists

Amna, from Pakistan, is the webinar moderator

Amna Sabahat Bhutta, (YES 2006 - 2007, Pakistan, hosted by AYUSA in Vancouver, WA), is a communication and project management specialist from Pakistan. Prior to starting her master in International Affairs at Columbia University, she worked as the program manager with Mishal Pakistan, a country partner of World Economic Forum. She also worked as an information analyst for a multinational, Global Rescue, and as the regional ambassador to South Asia for Global Zero. She is currently a Fulbright Scholar and Women International Leadership (WIL) Fellow at International House, New York. She has been awarded with Emerging Leaders’ Award, given by Pakistan-US Alumni Network and US State Department, as an appreciation for her volunteer work and community service projects in Pakistan since 2007. Amna is currently interning at iEARN-USA and will be the Reverse Culture Shock Webinar moderator. 

Lamine Cropped
Lamine, from Mali, is a webinar panelist

Mahamadou Lamine Bagayoko is the Mali coordinator for the YES program. Mr. Bagayoko is a Fulbright alumnus with a Master of Arts in Women's studies from SUNY Albany and is an educator with more than 15 years of experiences in exchange programs management. He has worked as homestay coordinator, students services coordinator, languages teacher and coordinator, and assistant director for a study abroad program that brings American students to Mali. As the country coordinator of iEARN in Mali, Mr. Bagayoko manages the YES program, with his staff, under the official name of NICER MALI. He is passionate about culture, gender, social justice and mutual understanding. He  loves sharing knowledge and learning from others. He is fluent in French, English, Bambara and speaks several other languages including German.

Merima Final
Merima, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a webinar panelist

Merima Muhic (YES 2015-2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by ACES in Apex, NC) believes a big part of her exchange year was shaped by the fact that she was placed in a single parent home with a host mom that to this day continues to be a wonderful support system. Merima’s exchange year was full of new cultures, friends, interests; all that would stick around even after she finished her exchange year. She credits those people and experiences in shaping the years that have followed YES. Merima says that YES Alumni Organization had a lot to do with her adapting back into her community – she became involved with projects as soon as she returned home. Merima eventually became a city representative for YES and gets to do a project a month on topics she is extremely passionate about, such as gender equality, youth involvement, serving at shelters, and other community service projects. Merima is also a full-time student at University of Sarajevo where she is majoring in International Relations and Diplomacy.

Aziz Cropped
Aziz, from Palestine, is a webinar panelist

Abdalaziz Abuzayed (YES 2010-2011, Gaza, hosted by FLAG in Lexington, SC and Marion, NC) is a Palestinian young man, aspiring to create a positive difference in the world through education, dialogue, and development projects. Abdalaziz, who prefers Aziz for short, currently reside in Cairo, Egypt, in queue to start his Master's studies in Area and Global Studies for International Cooperation. His interests are limitless, just like he hopes his influence will be. Aziz joined the YES program to start a journey life, and it hasn't yet ended. He will tell you how one relatively short experience can enhance your whole life the moment you realize what you have.

Shine Photo
Shine, from Philippines, is a webinar panelist

Shine Santos (YES 2006-2007, Philippines, hosted by PAX in Bay City, MI) is a Customer Development Executive at Unilever Food Solutions. She graduated Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines under the degree BS Tourism. She was hosted in Bay City, Michigan during her KL-YES year in 2007 and spent the year with the Kernstock's together with another exchange student from Brazil. Shine served as the Chapter President  of the AFS Intercultural Programs Philippines, Metro Manila Chapter from 2014-2015, and continues to volunteer at her local KL-YES alumni association. On weekends, she plays Touch Football (Touch Rugby) with her local team and often go for long distance runs. Shine is currently a member of the Philippine Women's National Touch Football Team that will compete at the Touch World Cup 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Social Media for Social Good

Davor Tunjic
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Will Smith

Social Media for Social Good: YES Alumni Webinar

It's so important to know how to use social media to mobilize your IEW projects and activities. #IEW is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide from November 14-18, 2016! That's why we organized the Social Media for Social Good YES alumni webinar on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. During the webinar, YES alumni learned tips and tricks for using social media to share their culture and activities during IEW! Both YES alumni and on-program students were encouraged to attend.

The panel of speakers included Will Smith (Not the actor!), President & Director of the Monrovia Football Academy in Liberia and Davor Tunjic, YES 2012-2013 and YES Alumni Coordinator of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both speakers offered participants of the webinar strategies and tools for using social media platforms to promote and propel their IEW projects and activities while gaining support from their peers. 

If you missed the webinar, you can still learn how to use social media to get the word out about your projects and activities by watching the recording of this webinar on the YES YouTube and Vimeo channels!

Meet the Panel:

Will Smith (Not the actor!), President & Director of the Monrovia Football Academy in Liberia

Inspired by his participation in the 2013 Liberian Peace & Reconciliation soccer match and President Sirleaf’s acknowledgment that Liberia’s education system needed reconstruction, Will co-founded Liberia’s first soccer school to create new opportunities for Liberia’s talented boys and girls. Monrovia Football Academy (MFA) is the first school in Liberia to combine formal education with professional soccer development.  As the Director of the Academy, Will oversees the school’s operations in Liberia, manages all fundraising and outreach activities, and establishes partnerships with academic and soccer institutions both in Liberia and abroad. He uses social media to create awareness about education issues in Liberia and empowers his peers to make a difference. Will holds an MS in African Studies from the University of Oxford and a BA in Government and French from the College of William & Mary. He is currently completing a graduate course on social entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University and splits his time between Liberia and the United States.

Davor Tunjic, YES 2012-2013, Bosnia and Herzegovina

After completing his YES year, Davor became the YES Alumni Coordinator of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As Alumni Coordinator, he has organized and executed several projects including the renovation of public places, donation drives, and social good campaigns. After completing a YES Alumni Digital Storytelling Workshop, Davor facilitated his own Digital Storytelling Workshops for YES and FLEX alumni in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was also a part of an alumni project called, "A sto ne bi mogle?", a video documentary about women who perform jobs that are reserved for men in Bosnian society. Davor participated in the StartQube Social Entrepreneurship Workshop in Macedonia as a Social Media Trainee and shared his expertise with social media for social awareness with attendees of the webinar. 


Gender Equality for Social Change

Angela Lagat

Sanda Hanjalic
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Gender Equality for Social Change Webinar

YES alumni around the world have proven time after time that they are invested in promoting a more just and equal society, especially one that is free of gender bias. On September 18, 2018 YES program hosted the “Gender Equality for Social Change” Webinar to celebrate the alumni who are advancing gender equality, gain further momentum for the cause, and build awareness and strategies for best practices in striving towards gender equality in YES alumni communities around the globe. This webinar discussed how men and women can create projects and programs that challenge gender stereotypes, and emphasize the role YES alumni can take in supporting and changing perceptions about women.

The Gender Equality for Social Change Webinar had the goal of encouraging all YES alumni to become agents of change and challenge stereotypes that exist in their community. Advancing gender equality is a team effort; it is crucial that women and men work together to cultivate an environment that accepts and promotes gender equality across all sectors, whether it be in government positions, the workforce, or as community leaders. Regardless of gender, YES alumni can play a role in making their communities more just and equitable. Gender equality is not only about females creating women-led initiatives – gender equality also means that male counterparts are supporting and changing perceptions about women. YES alumni can all make a difference in making sure that women are more accepted and respected in all aspects of our societies. The webinar discussed strategies for making both men and women’s concerns and experiences an important part in the design and implementation of projects and programs, so that all genders benefit equally. This could be through supporting women-led entrepreneur initiatives, ensuring that women’s perspectives are included when developing projects, and so much more.

On the webinar two projects were featured that challenge the way that women are perceived within their own society to ultimately advance gender equality. 

Meet the Panelists


Sanda Hanjalic (YES 2009-2010, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by PAX in Lancaster, PA)

Sanda became interested in the issue of gender (in)equality while in the US, because she saw that many things were different than in her home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When Sanda returned home she decided to learn more and try to understand the gender discrepancies in Bosnia and Herzegovina and how she could change, or rather improve, it at least in her surroundings. 

Sanda says her most successful project has been “But Why Couldn't They?” "But Why Couldn't They" is an educational film project made by the members of the YES Alumni Association, with the help of American Councils and feminist production KRIVA. The film gathers stories of women who fight against prejudice and do things which are traditionally seen as "men's" work. Sanda explains that the goal of these short films is to fight against every-day stereotypes in Bosnian and Herzegovinian society, which often stop young women from pursuing their dreams in fear of being judged or failing. The women shown in films are the living proof that despite everything, women can do what they truly want. The women in the films proudly say "Why couldn't we?" and defy gender roles. The films were shown in cities around Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in Skopje, Macedonia.

Sanda explains that as a girl growing up in Sarajevo, she was constantly discouraged to join in certain activities or play some sports because they were for boys only, which she never understood, but regardless, she wanted to fit in as a child and didn't go after her dreams. Sanda said if these films helped any other young Sanda to be braver and do what she wants, the goal is accomplished.

Check out the "But Why Couldn't They" Videos below!

Angela Profile Photo

Angela Lagat is the Chief Brand and Marketing lead at ZanaAfrica with over 12 years experience in developing and managing a range of global and local brands. Her current areas of focus is developing approaches to deliver products and information for adolescent girls and women in the areas of Menstrual health and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights in Kenya and East Africa. 

ZanaAfrica, in collaboration with The Population Council, is testing approaches to determine whether access to sanitary pads and reproductive health education helps keep girls in school and improves social and health outcomes through The Nia Project. Evidence from The Nia Project will lay the foundation for future action and study on menstrual health management, and school-based reproductive health education. These results will represent a major step forward in the quality of evidence on approaches to improve the health, educational and social outcomes of adolescent girls in Kenya. 

Angela currently leads the Creative Brand Team at ZanaAfrica overseeing the creation and delivery of the Nia brand promise and experience through its sanitary pad and health education products co-created with adolescent girls and women in Kenya. A big believer that brands have the power to create social change, Angela advocates the use of social branded platforms to transform industries and/or markets.

Before joining ZanaAfrica in 2016, Angela worked for various companies in the corporate sector such as, Java House Group-East Africa, Creative agencies like Young & Rubicam, Saatchi & Saatchi and TwoTone South Africa. Her career in the development sector (on transitioning from the Corporate sector) started with Girl Effect Rwanda a Private Public Partnership organization developing a potent branded platform for teen girls in Rwanda, as the Associate Country Brand Manager.

In her recent brand communication management roles within the development sector, she has been responsible for identifying, developing and executing strategies aligned to realizing organizational goals and creating ecosystems to support brand growth that will have social impact for girls and their communities.


Social Media for Social Good

David Imani
United States

Social Media for Social Good Webinar

Social media has a huge influence on our rapidly developing multimedia environment. As our fast moving and inter-connected multimedia society develops, so must our communication and media skill sets, especially in the world of activism and community service. This is particularly relevant for YES students and alumni who serve as changemakers and cultural ambassadors in both physical communities and multimedia environments.

To make sure YES alumni and students stay up to date on the newest advances and opportunities social media presents, the YES program hosted a Social Media for Social Good Webinar on Thursday, November 15th 2018. During the webinar we discussed how social media can be a powerful tool to help advance project planning, networking, implementation, and sharing impact of projects. The Social Media for Social Good Webinar gave YES alumni the tools to use social media to effectively promote and support their projects. Webinar participants learned how to creatively present their project/program evaluation statistics and impact stories on social media to promote their work, build momentum for their causes, and strengthen partnerships. Finally, the webinar pushed YES alumni to think how they can take their social media presence from awareness to action.

Excitingly, the Social Media for Social Good Webinar fell at the end of International Education Week - an initiative that encourages YES alumni and on-program students to share their culture and the benefits of international education and exchange. The Social Media for Social Good Webinar encouraged students and alumni to expand the goals of International Education Week to a larger international audience through social media.

Meet the Panelist

David Imani Headshot

Online and in real life, David Imani loves a great story – especially when it has a great purpose. At the Ad Council, he tells the stories of the nation’s largest social good campaigns through social media and public relations. Before that, he ran social media channels for Broadway shows and live experiences. And even before that, he studied Public Relations at Boston University. Throughout it all, he loves helping nonprofits and niche arts organizations find their story and tell it in a powerful way. He’s also always singing.

The Ad Council is the largest producer of public service advertisements. They create campaigns through different communication methods, such as social media, in order to increase awareness of public issues and have a measurable impact on society. The Ad Council produces service announcements sponsored by both non-profits and federal government agencies. Their campaigns are divided into four categories: education, family and community, health, and safety. Recently, the Ad Council has been involved in campaigns surrounding cyberbullying, childhood obesity, and energy efficiency. You may have heard of some of their more famous campaigns like Smokey Bear and promotions for the Peace Corps and USAID!


YES Alumni Grants Overview Webinar 2018

Ahmad Ladadweh
West Bank

Nendi Lukolm

Jeni St John
United States

18 Inspirational Alumni Grant Projects Positively Impacting Our World!

It’s that time of year again for YES Alumni Grants! The YES Alumni Grants application will be open from December 14, 2018 through February 11, 2019. The competition is open to all alumni of the YES and YES Abroad programs. Are you eager to conduct a project, but need some inspiration? Here are 18 projects to learn from! 

Perhaps you are not a YES alum, but we still hope that you will find cheer in the positively impressive and inspirational ways YES alumni are changing our world for the better. Read on for heartwarming YES alumni grant briefs!

Also, we have two webinars lined up to help you put your best application forward!

A Grants Program Overview webinar with special guest alumni discussing their experience conducting a grant project was held on December 11, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

A Grants Proposal Writing webinar was held on December 18, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Learn more about the Grants Proposal Writing webinar here.

The YES Alumni Grants program funded 18 grants which were conducted over the past year by alumni in the following 15 countries: Algeria, Bulgaria, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey, United States, and West Bank.

Conflict Resolution

Lamina holds a Little Leaders Sign
Little Leaders

Lamia Lahrech, (YES ’05) Algeria, hosted by Nacel Open Door in Milford, NH, received a YES alumni grant for The Little Leaders, an educational peace camp promoting mindfulness, peace, and civic engagement for 25 children ages eight to 12. The program aimed to empower young leaders to serve their communities in the future by teaching the techniques of nonviolent communication, meditation, and conflict resolution. 


Numanu Andani, (YES ’10) Ghana, hosted by ACES in Worthington, OH, received YES alumni grant funding to conduct Aren't Our Perspectives of Education All Wrong?. This project (pictured at the top of the article) partnered with the youth organization Numanu helped found, Northern Voices Ghana (NVG), to provide education and career guidance to students from ten high schools in the northern region of Ghana. The project team met with over 4,000 students to give visual presentations and speeches on how to make the best out of high school education, what to expect after high school, possible scholarships and sources of funding, and how to find motivation to commit themselves to their education. 

People sit around a conference table discussing critical thinking
Dream Maker Institute

Mifta Sugesty, (YES ’09) Indonesia, hosted by PAX in Ballston Spa, NY, received a YES alumni grant to found The Dream Maker Institute, a creative learning center for youth in Aceh, Indonesia. The Dream Maker Institute provides classes and resources aimed at developing critical thinkers and social justice-minded youth leaders and entrepreneurs. The institute hosts professional training in youth empowerment, social entrepreneurship, non-formal education, social impact measurement, organizational development, and social justice for 250 youths ages 15-30.

Amara Kamara, (YES ’13) Liberia, hosted by AYA/AIFS in Winter Haven, FL, conducted the YES alumni grant project Youth Rise from in partnership with the Youth Positive Transformation Initiative (YOTPI). Amara and his team hosted a two-day workshop for 300 youths in Gbarnga, where attendees were educated on civic responsibility. By increasing the civic knowledge and capacity of youth, YOPTI hoped to increase youth participation in the upcoming local elections.

In a brightly colored classroom, students stand behind a round table
RAMP Book Group

Madison Krieger, (YES Abroad ’15) United States, hosted by AFS in Surabaya, Indonesia, received grant funding to conduct RAMP Book Group. Madison and another non-alumna colleague developed a book club for children of immigrants at a middle school to help with their reading, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. The seven-week program was built around the study of four books focused on themes of diversity, social justice, peace and conflict, and immigration.


Plamena Solakova, (YES ’10) Bulgaria, hosted by PAX in Richland, WA, received YES alumni grant funding to lead Entrepreneurship as a Reflection of Female Empowerment, a four-day workshop on human rights and women’s role in business for 11 young women under the age of 25. The first three days consisted of professional development training and discussion to teach participants how to launch successful careers. On the fourth day, Plamena organized a panel of accomplished female guest speakers, including the Deputy Mayor of Silistra.

A photo of feet with leather flipflops
The Shoe Designers

Nendi Lukolm, (YES ’06) Nigeria, hosted by IRIS in Washington County, IA received grant funding to conduct The Shoe Designers, a project that trained 30 youths aged 15-25 in the art of shoe making with a three-month series of workshops. The aim of the project was to help the youths of Jos who were unemployed and not in school to acquire a skill that could give them a means to earn a living.

Interfaith and Strategic Dialogues

Tolerance Ambassadors
Five Tolerance Ambassadors next to a YES banner

Coskun Islek, (YES ’10) Turkey, hosted by AFS in Eau Claire, WI, hosted Tolerance Ambassadors. As intolerance is on the rise in Turkey, Coskun and his team organized a week-long tolerance-themed camp for 20 high school students from 13 different cities across Turkey. The project team designed and implemented a curriculum that facilitated participants’ understanding of the roots of conflict through hands-on activities, simulations, and group work.

Monique Jafta, (YES ’14) South Africa, hosted by AFS in Kendallville, IN, received a YES alumni grant to hold a Gender Equality Information Session at the University of Free State in Bloemfontein. The keynote speaker was Zane Thela, a transgender man who works at the human rights office at the university. The session, attended by 150 students, defined what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex, and educated participants on the LGBTQI community. 

People stand in a line blindfolded doing a trust exercise
Transforming Community Ability to Capability

Sarah Mae Ismael, (YES ’06) Philippines, hosted by AYA/AIFS in Holton, KS, implemented a YES alumni grant project called Transforming Community Ability to Capability (TCA2C) in Barangay Taluksangay, an underserved Muslim indigenous community of 8,500 in Zamboanga. Sarah and her team partnered with YOUTeacH Zamboanga and Global UNITE Youth Network to provide training and awareness sessions in response to community issues brought to the team’s attention by the local government. The information and training sessions targeted various subgroups in the community, including interfaith dialogue with tribal leaders, youth leadership and teambuilding training, illicit drug awareness, HIV awareness and prevention seminar with members of the LGBTQ+ community, and a seminar on family planning.

Unite The World
Unite the World group photo in front of ruins

Houcine Jedli, (YES ’16) Tunisia, hosted by AYUSA in Ocala, FL, led the YES alumni grant project Unite the World, a five-day summer camp in Kasserine for 25 high school and college students, ages 16 to 19. The camp aimed to provide attendees with leadership skills and engage them in activities that promote world peace. Strengthening a  network of  critical thinkers and peacemakers was the project’s main goal. 

Professional Development

Busra Kiriscioglu, (YES ’13) Turkey, hosted by AYA/AIFS in St. Cloud, MN received grant funding to hold an Alumni Career Development Day in Istanbul. As part of the event, five older alumni shared their career and professional experiences with about 20 high school-aged alumni and university students who haven't yet graduated. The high school alumni had the opportunity to speak with the university student alumni to learn about their majors and university life, and the alumni attending university benefited from speaking with more experienced professional alumni who are already in the workforce.

Promoting the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

Dare To Dive participants stand in swimming gear in front of a pool
Dare to Dive

Alhaji Mohammed, (YES ’08) Ghana, hosted by AFS in Alexandria, VA, conducted Dare-To-Dive. This yearlong project, delivered swimming lessons provided by professional instructors to 60 students with visual, mobility, and hearing/speech disabilities at the University of Ghana in Accra. The project trained and equipped participants with swimming skills, as well as provided motivation via inspirational guest speakers and trainers to enhance self-confidence and independence.

Public Health

A huge water tank in the bed of a pickup truck
Water Harvesting Project

Anne Ndegwa, (YES ’11) Kenya, hosted by PAX in Tuscaloosa, AL, received grant funding to conduct a Water Harvesting Project. The project team set up a water tank and filtration system at the Global Hope Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre to harvest rain water to be used during periods of drought. The Centre houses 80 children who were rescued from homelessness and were previously afflicted by poverty and drug addiction. The water tank and filtration system provides the Centre with water for domestic use as well as for gardening and agricultural endeavors for subsistence.

Sustainable Development

Akash Kumar, (YES ’15) India, hosted by AFS in Mesa, AZ, and two fellow YES alumni finished their yearlong YES alumni grant project SDG Society. The project aimed to raise awareness and induce action among youth surrounding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project team designed training modules and implemented workshops about the SDGs in more than 30 schools in New Delhi, Delhi; Gurugram, Haryana; and Singrauli District, Madhya Pradesh. 

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Chintan Mehta, (YES ’13) India, hosted by AFS in Corrales, NM, carried out EduSol, a project designed to educate middle school students about the emerging field of renewable energy with a focus on solar energy. Through presentations in and around Bangalore, he got 300 students, ages nine to 15, excited about solar energy through activities like a solar car race, lighting an LED, and charging USB devices with solar energy to see firsthand how solar energy is harnessed.

Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment

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ANA Means "ME" in Arabic

Ahmad Ladadweh, (YES ’13) West Bank, hosted by PAX in Bennington, VT, the project ANA Means "ME" in Arabic, which consisted of a series of workshops focusing on women’s empowerment and leadership for 16 female students from Birzeit University. The workshops aimed to raise participants’ awareness about women rights, teach them self-defense techniques and how to treat their body, and provide lessons in basic life and professional skills.

For more information on the YES Alumni Grants program, contact [email protected].


YES Alumni Grants Proposal Writing Webinar

Rachel Markowitz

YES Alumni Grant Proposal Writing Webinar

It's that time of year again for YES Alumni Grants! The YES Alumni Grants application will be open from December 14, 2018 through February 11, 2019. The competition is open to all alumni of the YES and YES Abroad programs. You can access the application here.

To help YES and YES Abroad alumni put their best application forward the YES program offered a YES Alumni Grants Proposal Writing Webinar on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 9am EST. 

The webinar focuses on professional writing skills that will help you clearly articulate your ideas in your grant application. The webinar covers all the essential elements of a compelling proposal and gives you a chance to brainstorm ideas and practice your skills in real time. You receive templates and are encouraged to come up with innovative ways to address the who, what, where, when, why, and how of potential projects.


Meet the Presenter

Rachel Markowitz – Program Manager, AMIDEAST Headquarters

Originally from Kansas, Rachel began her journey in international education as a high school student at the United World College. She now has an MA in Global Policy and a BA in Political Science and has published work on Sports for Development and Peace (SDP). Rachel moved to Morocco in 2008 as a Fulbright Student Research Grantee, and she loved it so much that she stayed for five years and learned French and Colloquial Moroccan Arabic. Rachel enjoys playing and coaching Ultimate, and facilitating dynamic youth workshops on a broad range of topics including interfaith community-building and gender parity.

If you're interested in learning more about the YES Alumni Grant, check out this YES Alumni Grants Overview Webinar.


Lead for Global Youth Service Day

Leen Al Yaman

Anooj Bhandari

Lead for Global Youth Service Day Webinar

It’s that time of year again, Global Youth Service Day (GYSD)! GYSD celebrates and encourages young people around the world to make a positive global impact by giving their time and efforts to improve their communities. This year, GYSD is happening April 12 - 14 and YES program wants to help YES students and alumni around the world prepare for GYSD. That’s why we hosted the YES program Lead for GYSD Webinar on March 19, 2019 at 9am EDT. The webinar shared strategies and advice on leadership skills, volunteer management, and advancing community involvement.

Webinar attendees worked on strengthening their project leadership skills and learned strategies to recruit, retain, and manage volunteers to have a bigger impact with GYSD projects. Throughout the webinar, we provided information on previous YES GYSD projects, how to register your own GYSD projects, and facts about this very exciting day.

This year’s GYSD is also focused on encouraging young people to become activists and advocates to address root causes of problems through policy change. Webinar attendees learned from our guest speakers about how they can encourage youth to advocate for policy change in their own communities.

To read more about GYSD please visit the Youth Service America website, and register your GYSD project. GYSD is the largest service event in the world and YES students and alumni have been involved every year!

Meet the Speakers:

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Leen Al Yaman, YES program specialist in Lebanon will share best practices to manage volunteers. Leen has been working on the YES program since August 2016. She is the YES Senior Program Specialist at AMIDEAST Lebanon. She has been part of the YES family for 10 years having went on the YES program in 2008 – 2009 where she attended Saint Andrew’s Priory School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Upon her return to Lebanon in June 2009, she joined the YES alumni network. She pursued her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with emphasis in Human Resources Management at Haigazian University in Beirut on a fully-funded scholarship. During university, she held several internships at the Lebanese Central Bank, the Nawaya Network (a local NGO), AMIDEAST office and at Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (USAID-funded project). Upon graduation, she started her career as an Administrative and HR Coordinator at Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (USAID-funded project) for a full year before joining AMIDEAST to work on the YES program. Leen is very passionate about her work with the alumni network. Having been part of the YES experience, Leen knows firsthand the life-changing impact this program has on the alumni who successfully return home. For her, the YES experience does not end upon returning home. Becoming a YES alumnus/a marks the start of a mission towards community engagement and service.

Anooj Bhandari Headshot

Anooj Bhandari is a community builder, youth engagement activist, and artist. He facilitates youth organizing programs in the United States and abroad. His main focus is to help youth make changes in their immediate communities and have a positive impact on their future. He works with many curriculum development and community facilitation projects, working with dialogue and facilitation on leadership development and intersectionality of social identity, primarily with youth, working with organizations including the Moth, Rustic Pathways, and Make the Road NY. Anooj is currently working with youth of color to build community based alternatives to punitive discipline in schools and communities. On the Lead for GYSD Webinar, Anooj will be leading an activity for webinar participants to identify their strengths as leaders in different circles of their communities. Anooj is also a performer in the company, the New York Neo-Futurists and is a teaching artist, bringing the art and craft of storytelling to communities. He believes in kindness, above all. 


YES for the Environment

Anna Wright

Bakari Mtili

John Tumaini

YES for the Environment Webinar

Environmental awareness is on the forefront of our minds these days. Many YES alumni associations are combining their efforts to develop great projects in their communities. From environmental conservation projects, to developing clean energy, to recycling campaigns, to harvesting rainwater, YES alumni are continually demonstrating their deep commitment to the environment.

Since there are so many alumni interested in responding to a changing climate, YES program offered a webinar on May 14, with guest speakers from around the world that shared their expertise on how to make environmental projects more sustainable. This webinar encouraged alumni to maximize the impact of their projects and make them long-lasting. If you are passionate about the environment and are wondering how you can do more to conserve and preserve the environment, then this webinar is for you!

Watch a recording of the webinar at:

At this webinar, attendees learned how to evolve their projects to leave a larger positive impact on the environment and their communities. They also learned how to develop a sustainable and long-lasting project. Participants gained the tools to think of creative projects that fit their interests and community needs. Guest speakers shared their expertise on being community leaders, carrying out sustainable environmental projects and how to be more than a one-time volunteer.

Our guest speakers are active in their communities (local, state, and national) and making a difference for the environment and so can you! Keep us informed about your environmental projects by submitting a story!

Nine Tips to Creating a Sustainable Environmental Project 

  1. Evaluate! Evaluate your organization's projects to improve the programs and to better share the impact your programs have on the community
  2. Get involved with existing organizations, because you will meet like-minded people with great ideas to share. If you can, take a leadership role in the organization to deepen your involvement.
  3. Stay positive! You are having an impact on your community, so be proud of the work you do.
  4. Make sure you have a well articulated project proposal that clearly outlines your goals, objectives, timelines, and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
  5. Ensure you have a way to fund your project
  6. Know your exit strategy - how will this remain sustainable?
  7. Know the location. For example if you are doing a tree planting project it is always very important to know where you are going to plant the trees. Have a glimpse understanding on the rainfall pattern of the area, soil and other factors which might influence the growth of the trees, will help you acquire knowledge of what trees to be planted and when to be planted. 
  8. Know the people and beneficiaries - if you know the people of the area you will have a general idea of how to go about introducing the concept to them. Always relate the idea to what they already know (ideologies)
  9. Involve local leaders and other elders - if you involve local leaders the people will feel ownership and become more responsible in upkeeping the project and making it sustainable. Simply be a part of the community and also make the project part of the community.

The Guest Speakers:

Anna Yes For The Environment

Anna Wright studied abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2012-2013.  She then attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she earned her B.S. in Agricultural Economics and worked on many environmental projects, including F.H. King Student Farm, Slow Food UW, Wisconsin Bike Fed, University Bike Resource Center, and Friends of the Lakeshore Path. She also holds a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, Anna lives in San Francisco. She works as an analyst for the California Public Utilities Commission on their climate change policy team.  She is also a frequent volunteer with SF Bike Coalition, and she is a board member of the Yes Abroad Alumni Association. In her free time, she enjoys baking bread, gardening, and hiking.

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Bakari Iddi Mtili (YES 2011-2012, Tanzania, hosted by AFS in Kingston, NY) currently resides in Moshi-Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. He is currently working as a Tutorial Assistant at the College of African Wildlife Management, Mweka. He has a bachelor degree in Wildlife Management at the College of African Wildlife Management. Bakari has great visions and passion toward conserving and managing wildlife and their habitats, and his goal is to make a conducive environment for every organism. He simply loves what he does for conservation. Though he has participated in a number of community projects, he is very fond of his recent participation and accomplishment of community activities in Tanzania aiming at natural resource conservation, raising awareness, and environmental rehabilitation (such as tree planting). Bakari believes the world is being jeopardized and efforts toward conserving our planet is highly needed – and he will not be left behind in the effort to conserve our world and wildlife. Bakari still cites his YES host family, the Lindemans, for their great contributions to Bakari. Bakari says the YES program had a great impact and influence on who he is today.


Tumaini Wambua John is a certified water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) professional. John is from Makueni, Kenya, a village in the lower eastern part of the country. He is the director of Hifadhi Africa Organization, an NGO that works in WASH, education, livelihood, and emergency humanitarian aid across East Africa. Hifadhi Africa Organization has partnered with Rotary International as the cooperating organization in Kenya since 2014 to implement $200,000 worth of district community grants, community grants, and global grants. In November 2017 John was selected out of over 80,000 applicants for the Young Water Fellowship program in Belgium. Through Young Water Solutions, John’s organization Hifadhi Africa Organization is building sand dams, a simple, low-cost, low-maintenance water harvesting technology. The sand dam collects the rain water flowing down the stream and the river banks, which is then pumped to a tank and filtered. He is the sitting Chairperson of the Young Water Solutions 2017-2022 cohorts


Four Key Tips to Developing a High Impact Resume and Career

Craig Zelizer
United States

Four Key Tips to Developing a High Impact Resume & Career: Facebook Live Event

What makes a strong resume? How do you impress a potential employer in an interview? How can you grow your professional brand and expand your network? The YES program was recently joined by Dr. Craig Zelizer, a leader in the social impact career advisory field, for his presentation called “Four Key Tips to Developing a High Impact Resume & Career.”

We know that study abroad can significantly add to the competitiveness of an application for a fellowship, job, university, or other future opportunities. But, you need to be able to market your study abroad experience in a way that highlights specific skills that are relevant to future opportunities.  

Many YES alumni describe their year on YES program or YES Abroad as “life-changing” or “amazing,” and while these may be genuine and honest answers, they do not fully describe the scope of a YES year. The video below helps alumni identify experiences that led to a gain or improvement in transferable skills, and identify examples that demonstrate skills in a unique way. Dr. Zelizer shared tips for writing an effective and high impact resume, discuss strategies to transfer study abroad experiences onto a resume or job interview, and highlight other ways to professionally network and build a brand.

Watch the above video to learn how YOU can stand out in a field of applicants. 

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Dr. Craig Zelizer is the Founder of PCDN, which connects a global community of changemakers to the tools, community and opportunities to build careers of impact and scale change.  He has strong experience in the development sector, academia, and social entrepreneurship. From 2005 to 2016, he served as a professor in the Conflict Resolution program at Georgetown University (where he still serves as Conflict Resolution Faculty Fellow).  He has led trainings, workshops and consultancies in over 20 countries organizations including with USIP, USAID, CRS, Rotary International and others. Craig is a recognized leader in the social sector field. He has received several awards including George Mason’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s alumni of the year award and an alumni career achievement award from Central European University. Dr. Zelizer spent two years in Hungary as a Fulbright Scholar and was a Boren Fellow in Bosnia.  He has published widely on peacebuilding, entrepreneurship, and innovation in higher education.


International Education Week 2019 Webinar

Abdullateef Abdullateef

Heba Alsaidi

Aleksis Satka

Markal Kelly
United States

Daize Njounkeng

Moiz Rehan

YES Program IEW 2019 Webinar

International Education Week (IEW) – a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education – is a national effort to promote programs that prepare youth with 21st century skills in today’s globalized world and to attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange life experiences with Americans. Each year IEW takes place the week before Thanksgiving, allowing YES students across America to give thanks for the once-in-a-lifetime scholarship opportunity by sharing about themselves, their countries, and their cultures.

IEW gives YES students across the United States the opportunity to educate Americans about their countries and cultures, and gives YES alumni around the world the opportunity to educate their communities about America and American people. In sharing of themselves, YES students and alumni simultaneously build bridges of mutual understanding and friendship in the place of negative stereotypes, xenophobia, and islamophobia. 

This year, as part of a  month-long celebration of International Education Week, the YES program hosted an IEW webinar on November 6 at 6:00 PM EST. This webinar was open to current YES students and YES alumni and featured alumni who have shown dedication towards international education through various projects in their home countries. The alumni panel shared practical advice with webinar participants to utilize International Education Week to connect with their host communities. Participants brainstormed creative IEW projects to celebrate international education and build bridges of global understanding between people all over the world. Participants also discussed ways of being self-reflective and mindful during their study abroad experiences and thought more broadly about the impact they are having through the YES program. 

Meet the Panelists

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Heba Alsaidi is from Gaza, Palestine. She studies English Literature at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Heba is a 2013-2014 YES alumna and was placed in Lake Stevens, Washington State. She says her exchange year was an eye-opener and showed her the true value of cultural diversity and the satisfaction that comes from shedding comfort zones. "I think that once I got a taste of what being an exchange student in a foreign country feels like, I made sure that I took advantage of my education and turned it into an adventure. I am studying way from home in Lebanon, I have been on exchange for a second time to the U.S. and I am planning to continue my graduate studies while on exchange. My best advice to anyone is to ‘celebrate culture and study abroad’".

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Aleksis Satka is from Tirana, Albania. In 2018-2019 Aleksis was hosted by the YES program in Lehi, Utah and attended the Lehi High School. During her exchange year, she was part of the Ultimate Frisbee team and participated in a variety of clubs including Math and Drama. She completed over 100 volunteer hours and became Student of the Year for Family and Consumer Science Classes. During her exchange year, she attended Civic Education Week and Better Understanding for a Better World in D.C. She is currently a Senior in Besnik Sykja, Tirana and is involved in a local Outdoor Ambassadors Club and the YES Alumni Association as a City Representative. "I am very passionate about arts, science, human rights and environmental issues."

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Daize Njounkeng is a 2017-2018 YES alumna from Cameroon, hosted in Indiana U.S. Daize is enthusiastic about community services, particularly geared towards children and youth. She works with her fellow YES alumni to carry out projects related to SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 4 (Quality education), 5(Gender Equality) and 11(Sustainable cities and communities). Daize has succeeded to build an active community of 30 teenagers, serving the community through active volunteering. Daize is a high school senior and takes advantage of every opportunity to learn, develop herself and empower others. She believes empowered youths have the ability to change the world.

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Abdullateef Abdullateef is 19 years old and from Kaduna State, Nigeria. He is a YES alumnus from 2016-2017 and was hosted in San Antonio, Texas. Abdullateef now attends a local college in Nigeria and is majoring in civil engineering.


Markal Kelly is an alumnus of the YES Abroad program in Bulgaria from the 2018-19 cohort. He is currently studying at Morehouse college in Atlanta, Georgia in hope of receiving his degree in International studies. 

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Moiz Rehan (webinar moderator) is from Islamabad, Pakistan. He is a 2012-2013 Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program alum and was placed in Chicago, IL. Moiz completed his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and French from Williams College in 2019 and is currently living in NYC. 

IEW Webinar Recording


ADA Webinar on Disability Rights, Inclusion and Advocacy

Johileny Merán
United States

Safira Bibi

YES ADA Webinar and Resources

2020 marks 30 years since the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. This landmark legislation prohibits discrimination based on disability and increases the opportunities and access for persons with disabilities. The law was written and passed to ensure that persons with disabilities have the same rights as other Americans. 

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, on Thursday, May 27 at 12pm ET, the YES program hosted a webinar on disability rights and advocacy in the U.S. The webinar also looked at some innovative YES alumni projects that are disability-centered and shared steps for alumni to plan and implement inclusivity and disability-centered projects. Live captioning and ASL interpreters were also available at the webinar.

Learn more about our guest speakers and watch the webinar recording below! 

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Johileny Merán is a Program Coordinator at Mobility International USA with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, working to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange. As an intern with the American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD),  Johileny worked at the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), promoting inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency response and preparedness. A Dominican immigrant and native Spanish speaker, Johileny has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Public Health with a minor in Disability Studies from New York University (NYU), having been motivated to pursue an international disability rights career after experiencing “accessibility shock” during a visit to her home country.  She studied abroad at NYU London, England as a Global Equity Fellow, where she was tasked with improving resources for diversity, equity and inclusion. See more:

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Safira Bibi (YES 2012-13, Pakistan, hosted by ASSE in Louisville, KY) is a YES alumna and was the first blind student from Pakistan to go to the U.S. through the Youth Exchange and Study program. Safira’s experience in America was a defining moment of her life. She explains that she had never practiced her autonomy and never experienced freedom in Pakistan. In America, she was able to do laundry, travel on her own, and manage her budget. When Safira returned back to Pakistan, she realized that her country lacks opportunities for students with visual impairments, and the responsibility of advocating for the opportunities for visual impaired students lies on the shoulders of those who have had the privilege/opportunity to educate themselves. It was then that Safira began conducting workshops and camps for visually impaired youth on mobility and life skills. Today, Safira works with multiple NGOs and private institutions to work on advocacy and outreach components of projects particularly dealing with youth with visual impairments. She also conducts sessions to inspire and motivate youth to struggle to achieve their goals. 

In Safira’s own words, “How can I expect people to accept my disability unless I fully embrace it and make it my strength!”

#AccessForAll #ADA30


Project Management and Development Webinar

Imran Khurshid

YES Project Management and Development Webinar

On Thursday, July 30, the YES program held a webinar for YES Alumni on Project Management and Development. Around 90 YES students attended and learned how to organize, plan, and schedule a project. The webinar was facilitated by Imran Khurshid, a certified professional trainer and member of the Project Management Institute who is passionate about leadership and project management. 

In his discussion of project management, Imran spoke about the importance of integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) when planning projects, defined key terms in the field like mission, objectives, and deliverables, and discussed the importance of a work breakdown structure and figuring out what one's core tasks are for the project. He also went over the timeline of a project, the stakeholders one needs to consider in implementing a project, and risk management.  

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Students were then placed in breakout rooms to plan and design a project in groups of five or six alumni. They selected from proposed hypothetical projects on gender equality, career readiness, teaching sign language, and organizing a reading marathon. Alumni discussed how their suggested project could help their community, which stakeholders are involved, internal and external risks to consider, and the core tasks and steps that need to be implemented in order to complete the project. Before the end of the webinar, some groups shared their project plan to their fellow participants.

Watch the recording of the YES Project Management and Development Webinar below:


Digital Storytelling Webinar for IEW

Wendy Jacques
United States

Austin Haeberle
United States

Irin Chowdhury

Stella Tiyoy

Sarah Jaroush

International Education Week 2020 - Video Your World!

Each year during the week before Thanksgiving, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education jointly host International Education Week (IEW), a national effort to promote programs that prepare youth with 21st century skills in today’s globalized world and to attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange life experiences with Americans. 

In honor of International Education Week this year (November 16-20), the YES program hosted a Digital Storytelling Webinar on November 9 at 9am ET, facilitated by award-winning film experts Wendy Jacques and Austin Haeberle. During this 90-minute webinar, participants learned about creating impact videos and telling their own impact story about cultural exchange to an international audience. Watch the recording of the Digital Storytelling Webinar here

Following the webinar, YES alumni have the chance to share their impact videos with the world by participating in the Video Your World Challenge! Using the skills they learned from the Digital Storytelling Webinar, YES alumni will create and submit their own impact videos about cultural exchange, to be shared out on the YES program website and social media platforms during International Education Week. Submissions for the Video Your World Challenge will be open from November 9–19.The video challenge is open to all YES alumni. 

Read more about the Video Your World Challenge and submit your videos for International Education Week at by November 19th.  

Read more about the webinar facilitators: 

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Austin Haeberle is a Peabody Award-winning journalist, educator and new media producer. As a New York-based digital journalist for the United Nations, his work has appeared on PBS, the Independent Film Channel, CNN, Current TV, Link TV and broadcasts worldwide. He founded the Listen Up! Youth Media Network, which provided support and created media projects with youth filmmakers around the world, including a Peabody Award for “Beyond Borders: Personal Stories from a Small Planet.” He has conducted media workshops in Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and North America.

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Wendy Jacques is a journalist and multimedia producer, focusing on human rights and the environment. In Guatemala, she co-founded Centro Ixim, providing media training for Mayan communities. With The Fund for Peace, she managed training projects in Central America, publishing materials on media strategies for grassroots human rights groups. From 2004–2008 she edited Amnesty International's “Fourth R” journal on human rights education and developed curricula for the City University of New York (CUNY) Research Foundation. At the United Nations, Wendy designs and facilitates multimedia trainings for visiting Mideast journalists. Recent projects have taken her to Costa Rica, where she trained groups in documentary production and co-produced Green vs. Gold, a television report about the environmental cost of gold mining in Costa Rica.

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Irin Chowdhury went on the YES program during the school year 2016-2017 and was hosted in Mequon, Wisconsin by an amazing family and an exceptionally supportive AFS chapter. Irin is from Sylhet, Bangladesh and is currently pursuing a BSc degree in Marine Biology in the province of Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada. In her free time, Irin watches a lot of documentaries. Her favorite genre is true crime. Irin wants to eventually pursue a career in either Documentary or wildlife filmmaking, along with being a marine biologist. Her other interests and passions involve advocacy and development work for girls' and women's education, advancement, health and well-being. From an early age, digital storytelling became one of her favorite ways of expressing her creativity and telling stories of her community. Irin believes we are able to live different lives, experience cultures & places, and bring changes in the world through storytelling. 

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Stella Tiyoy is a YES alumna (2012-2013), a disability rights advocate, and a global citizen. She is the founder of Accessible Kenya Campaign, an initiative that aims at advocating for accessibility rights in Kenya. She is also a student of Journalism and Media studies. Stella believes in a world of equal opportunities regardless of disability. Besides traveling, she loves playing wheelchair basketball.

Sarah Jaroush

Sarah Jaroush works in policy research at the UN ESCWA in Beirut, Lebanon. The team’s focus is on Governance in Syria in the post-conflict phase. Thanks to the YES Program, she was exposed to a wide array of social issues and found a passion for activism. Recently, she has been researching Arabic Sign Language and the Rights of Disabled Persons in Lebanon to try and find solutions to the lack of accessibility and inclusion of the Deaf in Lebanon. In her free time, she finds herself watching wildlife documentaries and volunteering with related NGOs. She also practices archery and enjoys playing and watching sports.


YES Media Literacy Webinar

Ally Gakweli

Jehad Oumer

Benjamin Thurn
United States

YES Media Literacy Webinar

The vast array of varied multimedia content available in the world today makes media literacy an issue of utmost importance. Many YES alumni associations recognize the urgency of the issue and are working to cultivate a culture of media literacy in their communities. From attending the News Literacy Workshop to preventing the spread of fake news to discussing press freedom and beyond, YES alumni are demonstrating their commitment to sharing knowledge about media literacy with their communities. 

Since so many YES alumni have already demonstrated an interest in and deep commitment to this topic, the YES program was thrilled to host the YES Webinar on Media Literacy on December 8. At this free webinar, three guest speakers, including two YES Alumni, shared their expertise on what characterizes media literacy and how to implement projects related to media literacy in one’s home community. Attendees learned about the importance of media literacy and how to critically analyze media messages. YES alumni speakers talked about initiatives that they have taken to encourage media literacy in their community and shared tips, tricks, and ideas of how participants can implement their own projects. Webinar participants also learned about ways to identify fake news and ask questions for initiating deeper conversations about the significance of media literacy. 

Below, please find the recording of the webinar and a resource guide on media literacy. 

Meet the guest speakers: 

Benjamin Thurn Headshot

Benjamin Thurn works as a Senior Program Officer for Camp and Media Literacy Programs at American Councils, where he leads the development and design of online courses, workshops, and teacher trainings that focus on media, news, information, and digital literacies. He teaches Intercultural Communication at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota, working with exchange students from the United States and Japan. Benjamin volunteers with the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) where he serves on the Resource and Content Development Team. He is passionate about media education and emerging storytelling technology like augmented and virtual reality. He has previously taught in South Korea, Turkey, India and Eastern Europe. He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Ally Gakweli

Ally Gakweli (YES 2012-2013, Kenya, placed with AYUSA in Arcade, NY) is a seasoned writer, video interviewer, and podcast host at the Kenyan Wallstreet, with two years of experience in driving conversations around startups, tech, and public policy. He is passionate about telling stories and the impact of information on decisions. He was previously recognized as one of the News Literacy Mentors by American Councils, working with young people around North Africa and Southeast Europe to counter the spread of misinformation. Some of his featured work includes interviews with SWVL, Copia, Kenya Bankers Association, and the International Monetary Fund. Before his career in media, he worked in the banking and FMCG industries in Equity Bank Kenya and Unilever.

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Jehad Oumer (YES 2016–2017, Libya, placed with AFS-USA in Washington, D.C.) is a student at Lebanese American University (LAU) majoring in Computer Science on MEPI Tomorrow’s Leaders Scholarship. He is an alumni of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Program. Jehad is passionate about community development through technology. He served as a team leader for the Tech Impact Robotics Team representing Libya at the FIRST Global Competition 2017. Jehad had previously interned at The George Washington University in D.C and MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Region in Beirut. Jehad has developed interest in Innovation policies and he is currently a remote associate with the Innovation for Policy Foundation learning about policy co-creation. Moreover, Jehad is currently working on building Annir Platform, a Libyan platform concerned about raising awareness about cyber hygiene and news literacy. 

Watch the recording of the video below!


YES LinkedIn Webinar

Tarin Rickett
United States

YES LinkedIn Webinar

On Monday, May 17, the YES program hosted the YES LinkedIn Webinar. At the webinar, attendees learned about how to build their professional brand, form connections with professionals over LinkedIn, and make their profile stand out from the millions of others. Webinar participants also learned about connecting with the YES community through LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools available to network and connect with experts and professionals around the world. LinkedIn provides a platform to showcase work experience, educational background, recommendations, and awards; make professional connections; and build a personal brand. There are over 740 million members in more than 200 countries, which means not only are users advertising themselves, but they are also creating connections with thousands of people. LinkedIn provides an avenue for members to explore potential career paths, find mentors, and pursue job opportunities. That's why the company calls itself "the world's largest professional network."

According to LinkedIn, 93% of recruiters use LinkedIn to recruit and research candidates, so this webinar provided the perfect opportunity for YES students and alumni to rework their LinkedIn profiles! Attendees learned from guest speaker Tarin Rickett, a Senior UI Engineer on LinkedIn's Growth team and a LinkedIn Coach, about the various ways in which they could leverage the LinkedIn platform to pursue career opportunities. Following the webinar, interested YES alumni signed up for one-on-one sessions to receive personal consultation on how to develop a strong LinkedIn profile from Tarin and her team at LinkedIn. 

Download the YES LinkedIn Webinar Resource Guide. 

Watch the YES LinkedIn Webinar below!

Tarin Rickett smiling headshot

Tarin Rickett is a Senior UI Engineer on LinkedIn's Growth team in San Francisco. When not coding, she spends time as a LinkedIn Coach, introducing newcomers to the platform in an effort to close the network gap. Before joining LinkedIn, she spent time in France, working with start-up non-profit Konexio to promote the inclusion of refugees in the workforce through tech skills training and community building. She is a strong believer in the power of mentorship and volunteers with TechWomen as a professional mentor to uplift fellow women in tech worldwide.


YES Monitoring and Evaluation Webinar

Allan Kakinda

Ishaku Abner

Musa Kabbah

YES Monitoring and Evaluation Webinar

On October 20, 2021, the YES program hosted the YES Monitoring and Evaluation Webinar. At this event, webinar attendees learned how to design and implement Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) tools that are useful for implementing successful alumni projects. M&E is used to assess community impact with the goal of improving future management of outcomes and sharing successes with key stakeholders. M&E can be conducted using a wide array of quantitative and qualitative tools, methods, and approaches, including surveys, evaluations, performance monitoring indicators, and interviews. 

The YES M&E webinar was facilitated by an expert guest speaker and two YES alumni who have implemented M&E in their community development work. Following the panelists' presentations, attendees had the chance to ask questions in the Q&A portion of the event. ASL interpretation and live captioning were available at the event.

Watch the YES Monitoring and Evaluation Webinar below!

Meet the guest speakers:

Headshot of Allan Kakinda wearing a suit

Allan Kakinda currently serves as the Senior Manager of Innovation, Monitoring and Evaluation at Compassion International. He has over 10 years of experience in providing M&E design, technical assistance and advice in a variety of sectors including WaSH (Water, Hygiene and Sanitation), Reproductive Health, Livelihoods programming, Education and eLearning, Poverty and Public Health. He provided M&E Support and guidance in a variety of countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and is passionate about using data and statistical methods to generate evidence to inform and improve programming. He has also been a member of iEARN since 2002, when he joined as a student and he is currently a country coordinator for iEARN in Uganda. 

Headshot Shak Abner wearing a red YES t-shirt

Ishaku “Shak” Abner (YES 2009-2010, Nigeria, placed with IRIS in Coon Rapids, IA) holds a Bachelor of Technology degree in Mathematics from University of Technology, Minna and is currently pursuing his post graduate studies in Developmental Education from Gombe State University. He was hosted in Iowa from 2009–2010 for the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (KL-YES) program. He served as the National President of the KL-YES Alumni in Nigeria—an association that he helped start in 2014—from 2017 to 2019, where he led over 300 alumni across 12 participating states and managed over 17 community response projects. Ishaku Abner is also a Peace Promotion Fellow with Equal Access International and led the team of volunteers in 2018 and 2020 during the #Football4Peace project to counter violent extremism narratives in Gombe State, which was featured on Arewa24 Satellite channel. Ishaku is the current Project Officer for the United States Government-sponsored Exchange Alumni Association, Gombe State chapter, where he is in charge of managing and scheduling deadlines of projects while monitoring and identifying potential issues or risks that may hinder project progress. He has over 2000 hours volunteering in community service across eight states in Nigeria. He is also a creative writer.

Headshot of Musa Kabbah wearing a blue shirt and crossing his arms

Musa A. Kabbah (YES 2015-2016, Liberia, placed by YFU in Alpena City, MI) is the founder and Executive Director of Better Understanding for a Better Liberia (BUBL). He oversees the organization's daily operations. Musa is studying Electrical System Technology at Alpena Community College (ACC) in Alpena City, Michigan. He has considerable experience in computer programming, fiber optics, Programmable Logic Controllers, and web design. He is a youth leader and advocate with extensive experience in youth initiatives and volunteering, including peacebuilding and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Musa is a member of the Language Society at ACC and a peer tutor. He is a member of the Student Leadership Committee at ACC, where he helps plan activities and organize events for students. Musa was an intern at Youth for Understanding USA (YFU), Digital Diplomacy for West Africa. He helped moderate the Digital Diplomacy training during his internship with YFU.  Musa holds a professional certificate in Cross-cultural Competence from the (YFU) virtual exchange program. He is an alumnus and former youth ambassador of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study programs in Liberia and the United States.


2021 International Education Week Webinar: A Conversation on Citizen Diplomacy

Britta Bjornlund
United States

Ayah Besaiso

Katie Wells
United States

Zana Idrizi

YES IEW Webinar: A Conversation on Citizen Diplomacy

On Wednesday, November 17 at 11:30am ET, the YES Program hosted the 2021 International Education Week Webinar. At the event, webinar attendees learned from YES alumni and expert guest speakers what it means to be a citizen diplomat, why citizen diplomacy is important, and how YES and YES Abroad students and alumni can act as citizen diplomats, both during their exchange years and when they return to their home countries. Citizen diplomacy is a core pillar of both the YES and YES Abroad programs and International Education Week (IEW). 

International Education Week, November 15-19, is an annual joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate the importance of international education in the U.S. and worldwide and to promote awareness and understanding of our world’s diverse cultures. 

The YES IEW Webinar featured a panel of two YES alumni, a YES Abroad alumni, and the Director of the Youth Programs Division in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Following the panel discussion, attendees had the chance to ask questions of the panelists. ASL interpretation and live captioning were provided at the event.

Meet the panelists!

Photo of guest speaker, Britta Bjournland

Britta Bjornlund is the Director of the Youth Programs Division in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In this capacity she oversees youth exchanges for more than 4,000 young people from around the world, including YES, YES Abroad, FLEX, and CBYX, as well as other programs. Prior to acquiring this position in November 2018, Ms. Bjornlund was the Study of the U.S. Branch Chief for ten years where she created and oversaw new programs such as the Mandela Washington Fellowship (YALI) and the Youth Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, among others. Before joining the State Department in 2009, Ms. Bjornlund was the Executive Director of the International Women’s Forum Leadership Foundation from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that, she worked at the Open World Leadership Center of the Library of Congress. Her background also includes managing international economic development and technical assistance programs in Ukraine for the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; in Kazakhstan for Ernst & Young; and in Russia for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. Ms. Bjornlund authored four books on the Cold War and the Russian Revolution for middle- and high-school students. She holds a master’s degree in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a bachelor’s degree in Russian from Williams College.

Photo of guest speaker, Ayah Besaiso

Ayah Besaiso (YES 2016-2017, Gaza, placed by AYA in Sierra Vista, AZ) is a student of political science and journalism at the American University in Bulgaria. Ever since her YES exchange year, Ayah found herself more interested in promoting international understanding and diversity. She is a member of the Phi Beta Delta honor society (to promote diversity) and is currently working as a Resident Assistant. Ayah gave many interesting presentations about her country during her exchange year and she has managed to continue representing her country even after finishing the YES program. 

Photo of Guest Speaker, Zana Idrizi

Zana Idrizi (YES 2009-2010, Kosovo, placed by American Councils PO in St. Paul, MN). Zana is currently working on youth empowerment and youth-led peace-building with the UNDP in Europe and Central Asia. Zana was one of the seven students from the first cohort of the YES Program in Kosovo. She was placed in St. Paul in Minnesota, in a house where being a global citizen and citizen diplomacy was strongly encouraged and facilitated by her host parents. While in university, Zana initiated the establishment of Girls Coding Kosovo, an organization that works on empowering young girls in the world of information technology. Zana holds a master's degree in International Security from the University of Denver, USA, and a bachelor's degree at the American University of Kosovo in Economics and Public Policy.

Photo of Guest speaker, Katie Wells

Katie Wells (YES Abroad 2012-2013, Oregon, USA, placed by American Councils in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina) is completing her final semester of and practicum for graduate school at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA to receive her Master's in International Education Management. Since her completion of the YES Abroad program, Katie studied and interned abroad in Klaipeda, Lithuania while completing her Bachelor's in International Studies. Shortly after, she embarked on the Teaching Assistant Program in France to work as an English language assistant in Pontarlier, France. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her experience was cut short, but thankfully her Master's program moved to an online format, allowing her to complete all course work before returning to France for her four-month practicum at the Syracuse University Strasbourg Center. Through all these programs, Katie has learned the importance of citizen diplomacy through cultural immersion, language acquisition, and developing intercultural competency skills. She is eager to continue her work creating bridges across countries and cultures as she begins her work as an International Program Advisor at Syracuse University in January.


GYSD Webinar on Developing Partnerships

Dao Nguyen

Raisona Alam

Fily Coulibaly

Joseph Lambe

Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) Webinar on Developing Partnerships

On Thursday, April 14 at 9am ET, the YES program hosted the 2022 Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) Webinar on Developing Partnerships. Webinar attendees learned how to implement GYSD projects by developing local partnerships and connecting with other stakeholders in their respective communities with the ultimate goal of maximizing the impact and sustainability of alumni projects. 

Global Youth Service Day is the largest youth service and civic action event in the world and the only one that celebrates and builds the capacity of all youth ages 5-25 to help our communities and democracy thrive by working together for the common good.

The GYSD Webinar on Developing Partnerships featured an expert guest speaker and three YES alumni with experience in developing partnerships for community projects. Following the panelists' presentations, attendees had the chance to ask questions in the Q&A portion of the event. ASL interpretation and live captioning were available at the event.

Dao Nguyen Headshot

Meet the guest speakers:

Dao Nguyen is the Global Youth Trainer on Meaningful Youth Engagement and ASEAN Head Delegate to the G20 Youth Summit. He is pursuing a master's degree at Peking University as a Yenching Scholar and Baixian Asia Future Leader. He co-founded the Student Think Tank for Europe-Asia Relations where he leads a team of 70 people from nearly 40 countries. Dao is passionate about international cooperation, social inclusion, and digital connectivity.

Raisona Headshot

Raisona Alam (YES 2018-2019, Bangladesh, placed by Ayusa in Longview, TX) is currently the General Secretary for the YES Alumni Bangladesh Association. She is a graphic designer and artist. These skills of hers  have helped her launch many projects till now. 

She has done projects like Project Querencia, an open art exhibition and competition. The event was virtual, which allowed for people all over the world to submit entries. The project was mainly a fundraiser for another one of the YES alumni projects and it heavily relied on everyone's participation, so they reached out to different clubs in their community, such as clubs formed in high school or university, many small organizations, and groups. While launching projects which heavily relied on partnerships, Raisona realized that most networking can be done through the YES alumni community, especially senior alumni who have now either formed their own businesses or have a good network of people they can connect others with.

Fily headshot

Fily Coulibaly (YES 2011-2012, Mali, placed by CCI Greenheart in Stratham, NH) has had leading roles in the YES Alumni Association of Mali, serving as the vice president, then treasurer of the association for three consecutive years. She's an active member of her community and very involved with many youth organizations and associations in Mali.

She's the president and co-founder of the Association Mali Djigui (Mali's Hope), which has been fighting against poverty and advocating for education, health and social inclusion since 2016. 

Every year, she leads and supports community service activities that impact more than 2,000 people from the most vulnerable parts of her community thanks to a great network of volunteers of all ages and the valuable partnerships she has developed with local NGOs, GOs, schools, associations and businesses. 

She's currently the Operations Manager of Agrobiotech, the first West Africa-based commercial plant biotechnology company in Mali, with the main goal of making that technology accessible in the most remote areas of sub-saharan Africa and beyond. 

Joseph headshot

Joseph Lambe (YES 2012-2013, Cameroon, placed by AFS-USA in Eden, NY) has a solid record in community

service and leading youth organizations. He is the president of the Cameroon YES Alumni Association (CYAA) and chairs the training of YES exchange students from Cameroon. He has led a good number of community service projects, including the Saving our Environment Project in 2014, Christmas projects, and several online trainings. Joseph is also a member and volunteer of many local NGOs such as LEAD Cameroon (for environmental protection and sustainable development), VEPDEF (for youth and women’s empowerment), Commonwealth Students Union (for youth leadership), etc. He is currently completing a postgraduate degree in International Law at the University of Yaounde 2 in Cameroon and enjoys traveling, debates, and spicy foods.


YES Art for Social Change Webinar

Aris Hines
United States

Mohamed Ben Fredj

YES Art for Social Change Webinar

On Thursday, June 2 from 10-11:30am ET, the YES program hosted the YES Art for Social Change Webinar led by Theater Teaching Artist, Aris Hines, and two YES alumnus, Mohamed Ben Fredj '18 (Tunisia). Webinar attendees learned how art can impact culture and be a tool for social change. The guest speakers shared their experiences leading art for social change projects around the world and engaged webinar attendees in discussions and activities related to the topic. 

Word wall with "Art for Social Change" written in the middle

Attendees were able to connect in small groups with other exchange program alumni who are interested in implementing art for social change projects to network and brainstorm project ideas. This webinar aimed to educate participants on how art can be used to impact culture and create social change, and inspire YES alumni to use different forms of art as a tool for their community development projects. 

This webinar was only open to YES, YES Abroad, and FLEX alumni. All participants had access to their cameras and microphones to engage in discussions and interactive activities. 

Only the beginning of the webinar was recorded since most of it was interactive and discussion based. Read more about the guest speakers and watch the short recording on YouTube

Headshot Of Aris Hines

Aris Hines (He/Him) is an Explorer, Artist, and Activist. As an African and Native American identifying facilitator, Aris continues to build on his five-year background in community and youth development. He has an AA in Theatre Arts from the Community College of Baltimore County and a BS in Theatre Studies, Film & Media, and Women's Studies from Towson University. As a Theatre Teaching Artist, Aris has focused all of his work on youth, children, and families from underrepresented communities. A recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer and a certified TEFL/TESL instructor, Mr. Hines has taught and tutored English as a Second Language to students in the Philippines. His work as a Facilitator has also allowed him to train participants on topics such as global citizenship, project management, college readiness, and sexual health. Mr. Hines has taught students from the United States, South Korea, Morocco, Japan, and Africa. When not working in the field of education, Aris writes for MTV and New York’s Broadway. Aris is currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Education from George Washington University.

Headshot Of Mohamed Ben Fredj

Mohamed Ben Fredj (YES 2017-2018, Tunisia, placed by AYA in Philippi, WV) is a rising Senior at the American University of Beirut, double majoring in Media and Communications & Political Studies. Mohamed’s love for art started at the ripe age of 7 when he learned to sing and play the violin at Bizerte’s public conservatory for classical music. 10 years later, Mohamed stepped foot into the theatre at Bridgeport High School in West Virginia during his YES program year, and in 2 musicals and competed on stage with troupe 7549’s One Act play which made it to the International Thespian Festival of 2018. Once back home, Mohamed continued pursuing acting at local theatres, where he discovered the medium’s power of bridging ideological gaps, addressing taboo topics, and uniting people over their love for the art. After High School, Mohamed started channeling his creativity through journalism as well, which he considers a science and an art form. He is currently the senior editor of the Campus section of AUB’s Outlook magazine, which he joined as a sophomore.


Leveraging Your Exchange Experience Professionally

Alena Savitskaya

Mar Smaili

YES Webinar on Leveraging Your Exchange Experience Professionally

On Tuesday, September 6 from 10 - 11:00am ET, the YES program hosted the YES Webinar on Leveraging Your Exchange Experience Professionally led by Minerva University Regional Outreach Director, Alena Savitskaya, and YES alumnus, Mar Smaili ‘08  from Morocco. Webinar attendees learned how to tailor their resumes and cover letters to highlight the skills they learned on the YES program, as well as how to prepare for university applications and job interviews by sharing relevant examples from their exchange experiences. 

Profile photo of Alena

Alena Savitskaya (she/her) Alena is Minerva University’s Regional Outreach Director for Europe, Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa. Originally from Kazakhstan, Alena has lived in seven countries both through studying and living abroad. Alena started her career in corporate HR. She later transitioned to education where she ran the country-wide Competitive College Club, a skills development program at EducationUSA, a U.S. State Department organization supporting students in college applications. For the past 4.5 years, Alena has been working to support outreach efforts in seeking, inspiring, and supporting the region's most talented students in their pursuit of unique and extraordinary education at Minerva University.

Profile photo of Mar

Mar Smaili (he/him) Mar Smaili is both a YES (2007-2008, placed by AYUSA) and Fulbright (2016-2018) alumnus. Mar is a career coach who is passionate about career counseling and intercultural dynamics in organizations. He enjoys exploring and reflecting on best practices pertaining to career development and immigrants’ experience in the labor market. To further his expertise in the field of career counseling, Mar is currently preparing for his Certified Career Development Practitioner (CCDP) designation in Ontario, Canada. Mar received his Master in Business Administration in the United States and is currently coaching newcomers to Canada on navigating the Canadian labor market.


YES Program: A 20th Anniversary Celebration Webinar

Adam Streeter
United States

Christine Odera

Heba Alsaidi

Kevin Baker
United States

Angena Grove
United States

YES Program: A 20th Anniversary Celebration Webinar

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the YES program, YES hosted a virtual panel discussion on Tuesday, January 24, at 10:00am ET, featuring alumni from different cohorts to reflect on their time on the YES program and how it has impacted their career and personal lives. In addition to these reflections, alumni and invited guests, including YES Program Officer Kevin Baker from the U.S. Department of State, had the opportunity to consider the importance of the YES program and international exchange and diplomacy more broadly. 

This event featured an announcement of the 20th anniversary social media campaign–specifically the alumni spotlight series set to launch in early February–as well as opportunities for the YES community to participate in the campaign throughout the year.

Thank you for joining us in celebration of international exchange, diplomacy, and connection through 20 years of the YES program. The webinar was open to all. 


Christine Odera, who moderated the discussion, is a Kenyan, advocate for Youth Mainstreaming, Peace and Security and Human Rights. She has gathered over 7 years’ experience in youth work, networks and alliance building, programing, advocacy, policy, negotiation, intercultural and experimental learning. Her understanding of Youth issues has propelled her into active engagement with organizations and governments in designing and influencing policy, programming and documentation of various youth issues including peace and security and education that has influenced more than 1.5 Billion Youth across the Commonwealth and the world. She has presented youth in over 5 high-level decision-making platforms speaking to Heads of Government and different stakeholders. She is a YES Alumni 2010/11 and also the program manager for School for International Training (SIT) Kenya program that focuses on Global health and human rights. SIT is a study abroad program that hosts Students from American universities to Kenya.


Heba Alsaidi is from Gaza, and in 2013 she was placed in Lake Stevens, Washington, where she spent the most life-changing 10 months of her life. The YES program left such an impact on her that for four years, she dedicated most of her free time to promoting exchange programs and helping international students around campus. She was also part of the committee that met with the Board of Trustees to request more funding towards exchange programs.

Heba majored in English Literature as part of the MEPI Tomorrow's Leaders Undergraduate scholarship at the Lebanese American University in Lebanon, and interned at the Office of International Students OIS of the Lebanese American University to help promote cultural exchange and study abroad opportunities. She graduated in 2020 and is now a freelance researcher/translator for an information company. She is currently working towards a career in International and Global Education, which is why she is part of a diverse number of programs that focus on cultural exchange.


Adam Streeter participated in the inaugural cohort of YES Abroad in 2009-2010, spending the year in Tema, Ghana. After returning from Ghana, he studied International Affairs at George Washington University, specializing in Middle East Studies. Upon graduation, he received GW's Shapiro Traveling Fellowship which he used to travel to the Occupied West Bank for the two years following graduation -- while in the West Bank, he studied Arabic at Birzeit University and filmed an informational video for Palestinian applicants to the YES Program. He pursued a Masters in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge in 2016 and spent several months in Djerba, Tunisia, where he wrote grant applications on behalf of Cozi, a Tunisian coworking space and startup incubator, before returning to the San Francisco Bay Area where he was born and raised. Adam now sells software for a tech startup in San Francisco and he loves staying connected with the YES community -- most recently at his host sister's graduation this year from pharmacy school.

Screen Shot 2023 01 11 At 1 56 05 Pm

Kevin Baker has been with the ECA since March of 2003, when he began working with the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program. In the fall of 2004, he transitioned to the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES)  program,  where  he  is  the  lead  Program  Officer.  He  is  also  the Program  Officer  for  the  Workshop  for  Youth  Leaders  in  English Teaching (WYLET) program for FLEX and YES students. Prior to joining ECA, Kevin worked abroad for 14 years with the United States Peace Corps  in  Senegal,  Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Poland, and Mali.

Angena Grove is a Local Coordinator for American Councils and has hosted 15 YES students over the last ten years. Angena and her husband originally became interested in exchange when they were friends with an exchange student from Latvia, their senior year in high school. They always knew when they started a family, they wanted to get involved with hosting and exchange. After hosting a few years and seeing the program, both of their daughters applied to YES Abroad and studied in South Africa and Bosnia & Herzegovina, respectively. "This program has greatly affected the trajectory of our family’s lives.  We have family all over the world now."


Global Youth Service Day (GYSD): Dream Big, Start Small Webinar

Scott Ganske
United States

Joylin Kombe

Esther Isah Bila

Daniel Newton Valai

Global Youth Service Day (GYSD): Dream Big, Start Small Webinar

In recognition of Global Youth Service Day (April 28-30, 2023) YES hosted a virtual webinar on Thursday, April 20 at 9:00am EDT with the goal of encouraging YES alumni and students to implement GYSD projects in their communities. Guest speakers included YES alumni and guests, including Scott Ganske, the VP of Partnerships at Youth Service America, who had the opportunity to describe their work, why GYSD is important, and how participants can get involved. There was also a facilitated audience Q&A session.

Global Youth Service Day, powered by Youth Service America, is the largest youth service and civic action event in the world and the only one that celebrates and builds the capacity of all youth ages 5-25 to help our communities and democracy thrive by working together for the common good. YES students and alumni implement hundreds of GYSD projects in the U.S. and around the world each year. Interested in learning more about GYSD projects? Check out GYSD stories on the YES website!

Thank you for joining us in celebration of Global Youth Service Day 2023!

Meet the guest speakers:

Professional photo of Scott in a suit, smiling in front of a tree

Scott Ganske is the Vice President of Partnerships at Youth Service America. As an international expert in leadership and volunteerism, he has trained and coached over 10,000 students, educators, and administrators from 115 countries. Scott brings 20+ years of experience as a classroom educator (K-12 and college), education consultant, and non-profit administrator who has worked with over 1,000 global organizations.

Headshot of YES alumna, ​Joylin, smiling at the camera

Joylin Kombe (YES 2016–2017, Tanzania, placed by IRIS in Larrabee, IA) has worked on projects based on period poverty in Arusha, Tanzania. She serves as the Managing Director of a project known as the Little Angel Foundation, which deals with educating people about menstrual hygiene management and making reusable pads available to girls. She has five years of experience on the field. She also focuses on project implementation, management, and planning.

Headshot of YES alumna, ​Esther Isah Bila, smiling at the camera

Esther Isah Bila (YES 2014-2015, Nigeria, placed by IRIS in Hills, IA) has served as the National Treasurer KL-YES Alumni Association of Nigeria KL-YAAN. She is the CEO/Founder of the Esther Isah Bila Foundation where she has led the Pad A Girl project for three consecutive years. Esther is also the National Treasurer for the Gombe State Medical Student Association and a volunteer Medical Outreach and Humanitarian Aide at the Nigeria Medical Association. She has worked closely with the Special Education Centre for six years in projects pertaining to hygiene and sex education. She continues to be involved in youth organizations and various associations in Nigeria. Esther is highly motivated in advocating for girl’s education as a tool for economic development in Nigeria.

YES alumnus Daneil sitting in a chair and smiling at the camera

Daniel Newton Valai (YES 2017-2018, Liberia, placed by IRIS in Altoona, IA) has been involved with a lot of volunteer activities since his return, due to his increasing passion for volunteerism and community services. He has served as the former Secretary General and current President for the YES Alumni Association of Liberia. As a volunteer at iEARN-Liberia he’s deeply involved with YES student recruitment, preparations, and alumni events planning and implementations. Daniel is also the Administrative Director at Partners for Education — a YES alumni organization that supports quality and transparent education, leadership, and entrepreneurship. He has led an awareness campaign against education malpractices in high schools in almost three different counties in Liberia through the YES alumni grant.

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