YES Programs



A Decade Later, My Heart Still Beats for YES

Tiara stands in front of Jefferson Memorial

Tiara Prasetyaningtyas (YES 2014-2015, Indonesia, placed by Greenheart in Shelbyville, KY)

Ten years ago, a digital image captured a vibrant tapestry of faces – a group of teenagers, beaming with youthful enthusiasm, stood in front of the Jefferson Memorial. Tucked away in a forgotten corner of Tiara's Instagram page, the photo, a little worn from a decade of digital transfers, still brings a rush of warm nostalgia that time cannot fade.

Tiara sits alone in front of a screen at the US Dept of State

Today, Tiara is no longer that wide-eyed teenager. She is a lawyer for Indonesia's Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology, and she recently found herself back in Washington, DC. This time, not as a student, but as a passionate advocate for the program that irrevocably shaped her life – the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. We sat down with Tiara to hear about her experience and the magic of the YES program.

Q: What was it like returning to DC?

It was a beautiful paradox; familiar, yet refreshingly new. Walking past familiar landmarks, memories came flooding back – the rollercoaster of emotion upon arrival and the friendships that defied geographical boundaries. But this time, I was here with a different purpose. I was invited to serve as an alumni mentor for the YES Civic Education Workshop. My goal was to show current YES students what alumni life is like and to champion the program that has given me so much.

Q: Tell us about your experience at the Civic Education Workshop.

It was a little surreal to reconnect with the program, but this time from the other side. Meeting with members of Congress and their staff to talk about the impact and value of the YES program and discussing my YES experience with staff from the U.S. Department of State made me feel like I was playing a part in ensuring this transformative experience continues to empower young lives.

Tiara speaks at a podium at the US Dept of State

Q: What was it like being a mentor and role model to the students?

Standing in that room, looking out at the next generation of YES scholars, was incredibly moving. Sharing my story of personal growth and friendships that defied distance, I felt like I was paying it forward. Seeing their eyes light up, their passion mirroring my own from a decade ago, was truly special.

Q: Why do you believe the YES program is so important?

This program transcends textbooks and classrooms. It fosters empathy, understanding, and connections that bridge cultures and oceans. It allows young minds to see the world through a different lens, to forge lifelong bonds, and to become ambassadors for peace in a world that often feels divided. In today's increasingly interconnected climate, these connections are more vital than ever.

Q: This sounds like a remarkable experience. What are your key takeaways?

This experience solidified my belief in the power of cultural exchange. It reminded me that even after a decade, the friendships forged through YES remain strong, like invisible threads that bind us across geographical distances. And most importantly, it ignited a renewed sense of purpose – to ensure this program continues to weave its magic for generations to come.

Tiara and her fellow alumni pose for a photo with Senator Joni Ernst