Annually on October 15, alumni across the globe, current students, and other members of the YES family celebrate YES Appreciation Day. This year, the YES program celebrated with the YES Appreciation Day Arts Contest. Alumni, students, and host parents submitted art based on the prompt, “What Does YES Mean to You?” The top 10 submissions were posted on YES social media accounts from October 11 to 15. These posts resulted in over 19,000 video views and 8,000 reactions.
Members of the YES community were also encouraged to post their own #ThankYouYES notes in celebration. Out of the 52 #ThankYouYES posts, there were over 10,500 engagements across all platforms.
Enjoy these works of art and find more on this playlist on YES’s YouTube channel!
#10: Rearview Mirror
Sarah Qureshi, YES 2016-2017, Pakistan, placed ACES in Eleva-Strum, Wisconsin
"We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror. YES made my rearview mirror full of memories and learning experiences, showing me that breathing in inspiration and trusting myself will only lead me to the answer, 'YES I CAN!'"
#9: The Reality of the American Dream
Suelv Sulo, YES 2021-2022, Albania, placed by Aspect in Port Orchard, Washington
“It was very fun making this video. I included little pieces of my life here in America and about what YES means to me. Thank you YES!”
#8: The Winding Roads of Possibility
Eliana Hamp, YES Abroad 2021-2022, U.S., placed by American Councils in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
"I created this painting with the concept of the many vibrant paths of possibility and opportunity in life unfolding around a person. For me, YES Abroad was one of those roads of possibility that I chose to walk down, and after only three weeks in my host country, I can already see how many new, colorful roads that this one has led to. Each person I get to truly know here will have some effect on my life and experiences both here and when I go back to the United States. Everything is an opportunity to learn and grow and keep exploring all of the directions of life around me. Additionally, YES Abroad is a chance for me to be a part of those roads in other people's lives. Who knows what choices I may inspire others to make and where it will lead them? It may be overwhelming to think about how many pivotal things are only one choice away, as represented by the crowded composition of the painting, but there is also an optimistic tone to it all; a hope and a determination to make the future beautiful.”
#7: Cheers To YES
Wilhelmina Ogerh Opesika Lawerh-Lawerh, YES 2021-2022, Ghana, placed by YFU in Medina-Cleveland, Ohio
“I wrote and recited a poem in appreciation of YES. The poem talks about how the unfortunate incident that happened on September 11, 2001 paved the way for this exchange program to exist. The recitation expresses a cheer to YES for its numerous achievements and impact in the lives of youth across the globe.”
#6: Bridges Across Cultures
Akhtar Ibrahim, YES 2021-2022, Indonesia, placed by CIEE in Saint Louis, Missouri
“The Arch represents the connection between the East and West, but this picture also represents the connection and friendship between the Indonesian and American cultures.”
Pictured is host dad Andy from Saint Louis and Akhtar from Indonesia.
#5: It's Just the Beginning
Sayed Hussain Mohammed, YES 2021-2022, Bahrain, placed by AYUSA in Springfield, Missouri
”A student with determination and visual impairment participates in the YES program and defies difficulties to reach his goal and prove that nothing is impossible.”
#4: Bloom Out of Your Comfort Zone
Farah Abawi, YES 2018-2019, Jordan, placed by PAX in Shattuck, Oklahoma
“Whenever I reflect about what YES means to me, it all goes back to being confident and taking a leap out of my space, out of my comfort zone. I believe when you step out of your zone, you are giving yourself the opportunity to bloom and discover new things. I discovered my love for public speaking, sharing my culture with my host community, and in return learning about theirs. It opened doors for me I never knew about.”
#3: YES Afrobeats Song
Oche Ankeli, YES 2014-2015, Nigeria, placed by PAX in Brattleboro, Vermont
“YES Afrobeats is a song I recorded and produced in appreciation of the impact the YES program has made in my life and in the lives of so many other beneficiaries. It's been seven years since my YES exchange, but the memories are still fresh and new. As an up-and-coming artist in my home country, YES has inspired me to use my talent for music to change lives in my community. I make music that communicates oneness, unity, love, and harmony.”
This video also features a slide show of many of the visual arts and photography submissions received from other YES students, alumni, and even one host mom!
#2: The Global Smile
Kelvin Mwangassa, YES 2013-2014, Tanzania, placed by AFS-USA in Whitefish, Montana
“One of the smallest, yet greatest things the YES program taught me was how to smile. It all started in 2013, when I was filling out the YES application form. I had to attach a passport sized photo, and, in the bracket, it was written, ‘Remember to smile.’ I remember retaking that picture about seven times because my teacher, who was helping me, was not satisfied with my smile. Fast forward to Washington, DC. Everyone smiled a lot. Everyone was happy. I was happy too; I just didn't know how to show it. Smiling wasn't my greatest strength, or any strength! When I got to Montana, everyone at school and at home was smiling every time I'd meet them, and I would stand there with my “angry” face (although I wasn’t angry). Thinking of it now, I think I looked weird. It took time, but in the end, I had the brightest smile anyone could have. And now I know how important it is to smile. So #ThankYouYES!”
Kelvin's drawing is the highlight image at the top of the article.
#1: Link the World!
Emna Cherif, YES 2021-2022, Tunisia, placed by YFU in Plumas Lake, California
“This is a song that captures the experience and emotions I had over the past year with the YES program. As my exchange was deferred, I went through uncertainty, frustration, and sometimes even helplessness. However, through those emotions that seemed very overwhelming at the time, I learned qualities that added value to my personality and made my life easier. Now I am two weeks into my exchange, and, looking back at the contrast between last year and this year, I can't help but be amazed! I realized the greater the struggle is, the bigger the reward. In this song, I wrote about what YES means to me – the experience, values, and lessons it taught me even before physically starting my exchange.”