YES Programs



Graduation Speech

A Group Of Young People Pose Wearing Hawaiin Leis 2

By Basil Nijim (YES 2022-2023, Israel [Arab Communities], placed by American Councils in Kamuela, HI)

Everything started when I was in the 9th grade. Well, you’re asking yourself what my 9th-grade story has to do with me one day before my graduation, with Parker School, my host parents, and the beautiful community I connected to in the last few months. The answer is, I like to tell stories, and after I took some speech lessons, one of the skills that I learned during my year as an exchange student is that giving a story that makes the audience live through you is one of the main elements to make you enjoy my words today!

During the first semester in my 9th grade and exactly after the first final exam we took, Covid arrived in my country. Most of the people around me were scared, but I, as a 9th grader, had no time to think about my future. The only perspective I saw, Covid-19 was my path to freedom. Sleeping during classes I didn’t like, having breakfast with family during sports class, drawing, and editing some videos of my art during chemistry class! Is that definition of happiness to a 9th grader? Well, it sounded good enough. The truth is, it sounded way better to me. Having breakfast with all of my family, not on a weekend, meant a lot for me because I’ve always believed that nothing I needed as a teenager was more than family love. Doing art and editing videos in chemistry classes, even if my father is a chemistry teacher; well, I was following my passion! 

Alum Poses In Dress Attire Wiht Two Others Wearing Crowns

Super fast I finished my 10th grade with grades that my parents are happy about, doing some passion feeding in my free time. Of course, I was happy, too, because of my grades! But you know I felt lost. At the beginning of the 11th grade, my cousin told me about a scholarship to live in America and I felt it will be the only thing that I can do to feel different than 200 students my age in my village. I applied with the worst English you can imagine. I and 16 other students got it out of hundreds of students who applied all over the country because we believed.

I was in Egypt celebrating with my family that my new life was gonna start after summer. Unfortunately, I got an email saying that I was one month away from my flight and the organization didn’t find a host family yet. And if, in the next two weeks they didn’t find a family, I should attend my village school and forget about America. Well, you know the end of the story, because I’m here now. I know, just enjoy the moment. Long story short, I did not find a host family in the right time. While most of the other exchange students left and I was trying to make everyone understand why I’m still here, the next deadline was the 31st of August. When did I find a host family? The night of the 31st of August! I packed everything and said goodbye to my friends, because of my flight on September 4th.

Alum Selfie With One Other Person And Rainbow In Background

I believed, and it happened. It happened late, that is right! But I believed America. I got Hawaii. I believed in a stereotypical American family. I got a host dad who taught me piano, made me able to write down this speech without anyone’s help after I didn’t know how to use the past version of verbs in English, and treated me like his true son for the whole year.

I believed in a crowded American school. I got a private art school! Parker School! Art was my passion and my dream to be in an art school, but a didn’t expect to get that in my year in America! In other words. I got a way better experience than I believed that provided more than one of my dreams. Parker School was the only perfect ohana, environment, and school.

I’m so thankful for being a part of Parker School Ohana. I said it before in the yearbook and I am saying it again:

Parker School you were my dream, and now you are my present that will always be THE essential part of building my future life. 
Alum Poses In Mirror With Three Others

I will never forget the first day in school. The names Noe and Naya were so similar to me. Telling Tatum that, “my English ran away” after forgetting half of the sentence that I was trying to say. Going to Kona with Zoey and Kyle. I will never forget the moment on the very first day in school that Zoey told me the meaning of “Aloha spirit”. Funny moments of rehearsal with Tatum, Hugo, Genevive, Ellarain, and Taylor. Government classes that I was trying to get, thank god and Mr. Clarke, I got it eventually. The first government exam when Rebecca wrote down a whole paper for an essay question and I was trying to spell the word “constitution.” Not knowing the difference between has and have, but today, I promised myself no one was gonna help me write my speech. And every other small detail with every one of my classmates I’ll never forget because of the space that Parker School provided me.

I started the story since the 9th grade, because I want to tell you that Parker School convinced me that I can do art for more than just filling my free time. I thought I can’t succeed in school and have time for family and friends; Parker School was the best example that showed me I can care about my families, both of them actually, have time to explore the island, travel, and get good grades! We don’t need a pandemic to have time for all of that! I don’t need a pandemic to have some self time. These are big words for me, but I’m responsible about it: Parker School changed my life. 

Alumni Smiles While Working On Pottery Wheel

Now I’m going back to my country in two weeks, but after this experience I will never be the same as before. One of my biggest fears was just having good grades as my one and only achievement before being an adult, and now, living in the the farthest state of the farthest continent without my parents, and tomorrow I’m getting a diploma from Parker School containing several art classes that I was dreaming about since years, and I’m still 17.

I shared the part of not finding a place to stay in America and being one step far from losing my year, to tell and share with everyone, that even if you are one step far away from losing everything you planned for, believing that God will not let you down is gonna be enough. All of that was through the doors and the windows that Parker School opened to me. I will remember you and you will be the biggest thing that I’m proud of forever and thank you all for being a part of this year. I would like to thank my biological parents and family and wish they were her tonight. And thanks to everybody, especially my classmates and their parents for supporting me to have the best American experience. I love all of you so much, and forever you will be in my heart. 

Alum Poses With A Group Holding Flowers And Smiling