The U.S. Embassy in Beirut typically holds their annual Independence Day celebration with hundreds of guests in attendance, but this year’s celebration was different. On July 4, the U.S. Embassy invited only 30 in-person guests — the YES 2020-2021 student cohort who just completed their virtual exchange program. Due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lebanese alumni of the virtual program were rewarded with a special experience at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Dorothy Shea, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, and her team at the U.S. embassy gave the YES alumni VIP treatment with a live band and dancing!
In her remarks, Ambassador Shea congratulated the YES alumni on their participation in the virtual program. Ambassador Shea shared:
“I want to congratulate you for your adaptability, maturity, and motivation. Because of COVID-19, I guess we all learned to embrace the virtual world; as YES students, you did that and more — figuring out how to glean enriching experiences out of less-than-optimal circumstances. And you did this amid real hardships, such as your country’s spiraling economic crisis and the horrific blast at the Port of Beirut. In doing so, you exhibited the very qualities that led us to select you as 'ambassadors' of Lebanon.”
Ambassador Shea took group photos with the YES alumni with party decorations all themed in red, white, and blue for Independence Day. The YES alumni enjoyed getting to meet U.S. officials at the embassy and connect with their peers at this in-person event for an iconic American holiday. YES alumnus Savia Haykal responded to the Embassy's Instagram post about the event:
“I'm beyond grateful that I was invited to celebrate this day with you guys! Amazing staff. All the respect and love for the ambassador!”
Abdallah Ibrahim, another alumnus of the virtual YES program explained:
"On the 4th of July, the YES students of 2020 - 2021 virtual program were invited to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut for a party, and it was the best thing that happened to us all year. I got to meet my dear YES friends who I bonded with online throughout the program and now we are best friends. The party was genuinely amazing, from the music, to the food, and the encouraging speech the ambassador gave which touched our hearts. We felt the sincerity in her kind words and so we grew to love her. The ambassador and the rest of the team at the embassy were super nice and so we felt comfortable talking to them. This party made us feel appreciated after a long year filled with disappointment and it made me realize that we weren’t forgotten. Personally this event inspired me to push forward because now I know that those who work hard will always find a reward. So I thank the team at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut for the best day of my life."
We are proud of the YES alumni of the virtual program for their perseverance, flexibility, and creativity in these unprecedented times!
Read about another alumni event at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut here.
Savio Haykal (YES 2020 – 2021, Lebanon, virtually placed by STS Foundation in Katy, TX)
Abdallah Ibrahim (YES 2020 – 2021, Lebanon, virtually placed by World Link in Fort Dodge, IA)