YES Programs



Celebrating 20 Years of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program

A Group Of Alumni Pose Holding Flag Of Suriname

By Cheraine Amelo (YES 2018-2019, Suriname, placed by PAX in Bluffton, IN)

  • 20 years of the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program globally.
  • Approximately 15 years of the YES program in Suriname.
  • More than 60 YES alumni in Suriname.
  • More than 100 community service activities from YES alumni in Suriname.

Over the years, there have been many groups that have gone to the States on exchange  and each have at least one thing in common when they return: growth. Some have experienced growth more than others, but nonetheless, there is growth. 

In my YES cohort alone, myself and many of my peers have undergone a lot of physical and personality changes. Both boys got a lot taller, bigger, and outspoken–I almost don’t recognize them. One of the girls, Ravilielle, who didn’t normally speak up or only spoke to certain people, has become very open–it’s kind of like she had a whole change of personality and became an extrovert.

In order to really reflect how much the YES program has affected us, I have gathered a few alumni from different cohorts to give a short statement about their year on the program, starting with myself.

“The YES program has taught me many valuable things, such as community service and the importance of cultural exchange. Applying for this program and going on exchange were some of the best decisions that I could have made to secure a good future for myself as a person and my career aspirations.” – Cheraine Amelo (YES 2018-2019)
“I had an amazing experience in America. It changed the way I view the world. Living with a host family gave me the feeling that good people, who are ready to help others without expecting anything in return, still exist. Going to an American high school taught me a new and advanced way of teaching and learning.” – Iraisha Shaban (YES 2015-2016)
“My year in the U.S. was an extraordinary experience. It taught me how to communicate, how to be more open-minded, free spirited, and how to appreciate everything and everyone around me. These life lessons I work on every day so I can present the best version of myself.” – Eliza Redjopawiro (YES 2021-2022)
“My year in the USA taught me many things like leadership skills, the importance of communication, and it also shifted my stereotypes about certain lifestyles of Americans. I became more open-minded, and that year also helped me to get out of my comfort zone and connect with people. The important lesson I took with me is to be open-minded and engage actively in activities such as volunteering, etc.” – Chevon Adriaans (YES 2018-2019)
“I would say that my exchange year in the U.S created a new and better me. It taught me to be more independent, enjoy and make the most of each day I have, and it gave me a lot of knowledge and experience regarding people and community. My exchange year also gave me a different perspective on how I see the world and humans, and last but not least, it gave me a second home and it taught me a lot about myself, who I am, and what my goals are in life.” – Isha Sewradj (YES 2021-2022)
“My exchange year in the U.S. was one of the best experiences of my life and I'm grateful for everyone that made it possible. I learned so much about American culture, but most importantly, I learned so much about myself. My exchange year taught me to be more open-minded, responsible, and independent, and this really changed the way I look at the world. I can confidently say that these lessons still have an impact on my life today. I'm thankful for the knowledge and experience I have gained from my exchange year and I wish to continue to grow and become the best I can be.” – Jaron Cadogan (YES 2021-2022)
“I remember the day I left to start my YES journey: I was scared, I did not know what to expect, and I had so many questions. Before leaving we were told to not have any expectations, and to be ready for the adventure ahead. It was quite an adventure, and my year in the States taught me so much. I learned how to work better with others, I made new friends, and I learned so much about American culture and their sports. After coming back from the States, I’ve noticed that I am more organized, I feel more confident, and I am engaging in more conversations and debates with others.” – Rounakh Ramlagansing (YES 2018-2019)
“I always say that my YES year transformed me into a better person. I learned to think outside of the box and to appreciate differences. I also learned how to better socialize, and I gained so much more self-confidence in a short amount of time, which gave me the ability to meet so many amazing people who formed me into who I am today. That year also taught me to appreciate all of the little things in life and not take anything for granted because it all just goes by in the blink of an eye.” – Shristie Banwarie (YES 2021-2022)

All in all, the YES program symbolizes growth, independence, and new opportunities for a lot of us. The YES program also gave us a community, friendships, and experiences we didn’t know we needed, and for that we all are extremely grateful.

A Group Of Surinamese Alumni Pose For Photo On Steps