YES is highlighting an alum from each year of the program.
By Sarah Hazley (YES ‘20, Malaysia, placed by American Councils in Joshua, TX)
The first time I ever heard of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was in 2018. I was 16 and still in high school at the time. I was intrigued and incredibly curious about the SDGs. I did as much reading as I could and followed as many activists as possible, all in the name of educating myself. I found out about a Youth Assembly forum in New York that would gather passionate youths around the world to discuss the 17 SDGs. I was inspired to understand the gravity of people coming together to solve world issues.
I spent the next year doing more reading and trying to truly figure out why the Sustainable Development Goals meant so much to me. I applied for an exchange year under the U.S. Department of State’s YES program, where I would be a youth ambassador for Malaysia in a U.S. high school. The YES program is a scholarship program under the U.S. Department of State and was created to bridge the gaps between Muslim majority countries and the USA post the 9/11 tragedy. I had to go through a series of interviews and various presentations to be called a youth ambassador. To my surprise, I was accepted as one of 40 youth ambassadors of Malaysia. I was placed in Texas.
When I reached Texas, I quickly made friends with other youth ambassadors from other countries such as Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, India, and more. I quickly realised that Sustainable Development Goal No. 17, Partnerships for the Goals, is what my friends and I were embodying. We were meant to engage in in-depth conversations about the world around us. Goal No. 17 is especially important because if countries around the world do not come to an agreement in making sure the future is safe, what would possibly be the outcome of the countries where malnutrition, child abuse, and climate change is rampant?
We do not have to come from the same background or walk of life, but we do, however, have to believe in a world where having security is not something one has to demand; it is already a given.
Partnerships for the Goals is all about making connections and understanding each countries' struggles. Development is only ever successful when inclusive connections are made at global, regional, national, and local scales. Partnerships for the Goals is especially important because we are not only caring about what happens on our side of the grass, but also others'. That is why it is vital. While caring for yourself is good, caring about others, too, is exceptional. We can help others understand where we come from, and it can be an exchange of knowledge. I understand issues around the world now that I have had the opportunity to discuss them with youths from other countries. I can only hope that if governments around the world care to engage in meaningful conversations, enlightenment will be the outcome.