By Ghizlane Akourim (YES 2015-2016, Morocco, placed by FLAG in Indianapolis, IN)
I can’t believe it has been eight years since I participated in the YES program! The whole experience is still vivid in my mind. My exchange year was the turning point in my life. I grew so much as a person, and I came to believe in my ability to build bridges of connection and to create change.
What is more astonishing is that this amazing program has achieved the milestone of 20 years and impacting over 15,000 participants. I can’t help but think of all the brilliant alumni and the amazing contributions they have made to their communities.
I could write hundreds of words about the many powerful lessons I learned during my exchange year, but for the program’s 20th birthday, I feel called to share words of gratitude and appreciation for the people who made this life-changing experience possible for me and thousands of other young leaders.
I am beyond grateful to the professionals who make this program happen. Their job is impactful on so many levels.
I am thankful to my wonderful host parents for opening their homes and hearts to me. They continue to be my friends, mentors, and biggest supporters.
I’m appreciative of my American host school for the amazing learning opportunities they provided me. I am thankful for the mentors, teachers, and peers I learned from and was inspired by.
I am proud of my younger self who was so invested in her mission as a youth cultural ambassador. Today, I am honored to be a YES alumna.
Happy birthday to the YES program!
I truly hope the program continues to change lives for the better, to build world-class emerging leaders, and to promote cultural understanding, acceptance, and love.