YES Programs



Hidden Hobby becomes Published Poetry

Layal Leb April 2018

The YES program provides many students with an opportunity to try out new activities while in the U.S. Whether a sport, new cuisines, or a high school course, behind every YES student is a story about experiencing something new. For Layal, it was creative writing.

On April 14, 2018, Layal Issa (YES 2013-2014, Lebanon, hosted by AFS in Charlotte, NC) received first and second place after submitting two contemporary poetry pieces of her writings to Columbia College’s annual literary and art magazine The Criterion. Layal is currently completing her undergraduate degree with academic and Hope Fund scholarships at Columbia College in South Carolina. The Criterion holds the record for being the longest running women’s college literary and art magazine in the U.S.A.

At 12 years old, Layal developed a passion for reading fiction and poetry. She kept notebooks full of vocabulary to improve her English language and started dedicating time to writing as a therapeutic way to express her emotions and thoughts.

Although she had talent, Layal was too scared to share her writing pieces publicly. So for a few years, writing was only a secret hobby for her. This all changed when she went on the YES program. YES was a great opportunity for Layal to find a community where young adult writing was appreciated. It gave her the chance to enhance not just her English writing skills, but also to expand her work on topics and perspectives she would not have learned about otherwise.

Layal shares, “My YES experience is always going to be one of the biggest reasons that I had the courage and confidence to finally share my pieces with my network of family and friends.”

Layal’s advice to her YES alumni peers is, “Never doubt yourself or think that you’re not good enough. I made that mistake and it held me back for a long time, but once I started believing in myself and my capabilities, I was able to achieve things I wouldn’t have achieved if I didn’t trust in myself.”

See for yourself! You can read one of Layal’s winning pieces, Candlelight Talk, here: