by Grace Wedgwood, Rainier Beach H.S.
As a Spanish teacher, returning to in-person learning after the wild ride that was teaching in the pandemic, I did not expect that our school would be hosting a YES student, but five classes in to the first day, in walked Sai Charan (YES 21-22, India, placed by AFS-USA in Seattle, WA) – a YES student from India who, beaming at me, took a seat in the front row of Spanish 1. I had no idea what an absolutely integral part of our school he would become, but it did not surprise me that soon everyone knew him and had something exceptional to say about him.
A few months into the year, Sai Charan asked if he could share a presentation about India to our class. I cannot begin to tell you how fully engaged students were that day—he showed up dressed in traditional garb and passionately spoke about his country and his experiences. Many of our students had never met anyone from India or knew much about India at all and Sai Charan’s presence at our school was incredibly impactful in broadening our students’ understanding of the world.
His presentation led them to asking about differences in family life, in schooling, in typical teenage activities, and in his impressions of the United States. Students were fascinated to hear their daily lives through the lens of someone from another country. He was never hesitant to answer questions or to share more. He also inspired many students to seek out exchange programs themselves—something a world language teacher like myself could only dream of.
I will never forget when Sai Charan showed up asking to join Link Crew, our 9th grade mentorship program (as well as be part of the Associated Student Body, and a part of a bunch of other clubs—he got involved in all he could!). His passion and zeal for working within our community has been overwhelming and his presence in our 9th grade classrooms modeled compassion and understanding for others in a way that only a future diplomat could. Sai Charan is generous with his time and his knowledge, and we are so fortunate to have had him in our school.
So, I must end with a deep thank you to him and to all YES exchange scholars. Their contributions to our communities and to our global understanding and empathy are crucial. I can only hope that we will continue to host students from all over the globe and that we will be fortunate enough to have more just like Sai Charan—he has left a lasting impression on our community and on all our hearts.