YES Programs



Finding Common Ground through Debate

Large Group Of Alumni

On August 4 and 5, 53 YES alumni gathered in Gaza City’s Almathaf Hotel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the YES program. Alumni from 14 YES cohorts came together to reflect and network. Heba Alsaidi ‘14, Iyad Hmidat ‘15, and Abdulqader Shatali ‘12 led the training on Majlis style debate, a style of debate which focuses on finding common ground between two sides, rather than winning or losing. The alumni felt this was particularly pertinent for the 20th anniversary, because they had learned how to accept different viewpoints and find solutions rather than focusing on proving their point during their YES exchange year.  

Alumni Sitting In A Circle Of Chairs

On the first day, Iyad led a public speaking session to train alumni on the basics of public speaking. Then, the alumni participated in a debate on if it is more beneficial for students to study abroad or to study in their home country. They practiced the Majlis style of debate by recalling their own experiences in the U.S., where they were exposed to foreign concepts. They had to accept differences and keep an open mind when learning new information.  

On the second day, the alumni played bingo, which was one of the first games they were introduced to in the U.S. Many of them recalled playing the game with their host families or friends, whether for a prize or just friendly competition. After the game, they sang karaoke, and enjoyed a delicious cake.  

The event overall was a gateway for alumni to relive the moments that made their exchange years memorable, from friend hangouts to game nights. It also helped alumni gain a sense of belonging to a like-minded community so they can work together towards a shared goal of giving back to their communities.  

Heba Al-Saidi (YES 2013-2014, Gaza, placed by CIEE in Lake Stevens, WA) 

Iyad Hmidat (YES 2014-2015, Gaza, placed by PAX in Westerville, OH) 

Abdulqader Shatali (YES 2011-2012, Gaza, placed by American Councils in Homedale, ID)