YES Programs



A Universe of Opportunity and Hope

Osaid giving presentation behind podium

By Osaid Shafea Jammal (YES 2015-2016, Israel Arab Communities, placed by AFS in Bangor, ME)

I dreamed of becoming a musician from a very young age. I started playing the piano when I was nine and I remember listening to my favorite artist and wondering if I could also have that level of success. But the older I got, the more I felt like my chances of achieving my goals and dreams were so slim that they almost disappeared in the chaos around me.

In 2015, something happened that sparked a light in me and gave me more hope that I could actually follow my dream. I was accepted to the YES program to spend one year in the U.S. as an exchange student. I was hosted by an amazing family in Bangor, Maine and my exchange year was nothing short of life-changing. It opened my mind to how big the world is and how much opportunity there is beyond the conflict that I was born and raised in as a Palestinian in Israel. Most importantly, my YES year made me believe in myself and in my potential as an artist and that slim chance of achieving my dreams suddenly became a universe of opportunities and hope.

Osaid holding his high school certificate while wearing graduation cap and gown

After my exchange year, I dedicated everything I had to follow my dream of becoming a successful musician. I listened to my intuition and used all the self-confidence and drive from my exchange year to push myself closer to achieving my goals. After high school, I moved to Tel Aviv with a couple of musician friends and started to invest in my dream. During those two years, I achieved so much! I made over 160 songs and worked with so many talented artists, like producer Brandon Thomas, who has worked with Kanye West and Rihanna, and director Roxana Baldovin, who has worked with J Balvin, Doja Cat, and Whiz Khalifa. Since then I have managed to elevate my music quality even further, creating over 300 songs. Right now I’m busy developing my first business — a professional graphic design and music recording studio where I will be helping Palestinian artists grow and launch their own careers in music.

My goal down the line is to open a professional Palestinian music label that will help regional artists tell their stories to the world because, just like Jimmy Neil Smith said, “We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” I believe that the Palestinian story needs to be heard directly from us rather than just through the lens of the media.

Osaid and friends pose for group prom photo

I know that there are people all around the world who would listen and appreciate hearing my story from my own personal experiences. During my YES year, I presented about myself, my culture, the YES program, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict during International Education Week. It was one of the highlights of my year because so many people came up to me afterward and thanked me for presenting about the conflict that they had only heard about from the media. People appreciated learning about the conflict from someone who has actually lived through it.

Last month, my fellow YES alumni and I got the opportunity to participate in a workshop entitled “Storytelling for Professional Impact.” During the sessions, we took a deep dive into storytelling and how stories are connected to everything around us, including religion, social media, fashion, music, etc. During the workshop, we had an opportunity to reflect on our own lives and how storytelling has shaped us.

I personally learned many things from the workshop, especially about the factors that separate a good story from a life-changing one; how to connect with the right audience; and to what extent stories changed the course of our history. I will definitely be using all these lessons in my career in music and art. My ultimate goal as an artist is to be able to tell my story to an international audience and inspire people to follow their dreams to reach their fullest potential.