YES Programs



Gulf YES Regional Alumni Conference

Large group of YES alumni with DCM and U.S. Embassy staff

56 YES alumni came together in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from April 25 to 28 for the first ever Gulf YES Regional Alumni Conference. The alumni came from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen to connect across the Gulf region and develop their skills to lead a new regional alumni association.

Alumni doing an activity with a deck of cards

To prepare for this intensive in-person event, 11 pre-selected alumni leaders met virtually from March 20 to April 18 to design the new alumni association structure. They also planned the content for the in-person workshop in Riyadh. During the virtual sessions, Amideast delivered training on teambuilding, inclusive leadership, strategic planning, and volunteer management. The alumni leaders were eager to envision new ways and opportunities for YES alumni to connect across the Gulf region.

YES alumna speaking into a microphone

On April 25, the participants arrived in Riyadh for welcoming remarks from Amideast/Saudi Arabia Country Director Don Schmidt. Then, on April 26, Anas Alhaddad ‘13 and Rayya Alshereqi ‘12 led a bonding activity to facilitate closer connections between the alumni. After that, Dhoha Bediwi ‘19 and Retaj Marzooq ‘23 hosted a panel discussion about “Life After YES” to highlight the varied successes and career paths taken by YES alumni. Deputy Chief of Mission Alison Dilworth from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh then shared remarks about the importance of the YES program and Youth Exchanges & English Language Coordinator Sarah Saktawi presented opportunities for YES alumni to connect with U.S. Embassies and the U.S. government alumni community more broadly. In the afternoon, Abdulrahman Alhussain ‘18 facilitated an engaging collaborative teamwork activity and Haithm Alsakkaf ‘08 trained the alumni on agile management.

Two alumni holding a white cat

On April 27, the alumni took turns volunteering at a local animal shelter in Riyadh, where they interacted with dogs and cats and learned about opportunities to help animals in their communities. The alumni also brainstormed volunteering activities they’d like to implement in their home communities; the volunteer component of this conference was a perfect complement to Global Youth Service Day, which co-occurred with the workshop dates. Finally, the alumni nominated alumni leaders from each country to serve as a transition team to finalize the alumni association structure and plan to host elections in the near future.

The alumni are already eagerly planning activities for the new association focused on capacity-building, volunteerism, and cultural exchange. We can’t wait to see what comes next for the amazing alumni from the Gulf region!

Anas Alhaddad (YES 2013-2014, Kuwait, placed by AFS-USA in Waukesha, WI)

Rayya Alshereqi (YES 2011-2012, Oman, placed by CIEE in Chattanooga, TN)

Dhoha Bediwi (YES 2018-2019, Saudi Arabia, placed by AFS-USA in Farmington, ME)

Retaj Marzooq (YES 2022-2023, Bahrain, placed by Greenheart in Fabius, NY)

Abdulrahman Alhussain (YES 2017-2018, Saudi Arabia, placed by AFS-USA in Elkhart, IN)