We are pleased to announce the January YES Student of the Month, Anika Matthee, from South Africa. She is placed by ACES and hosted in Plumas Lake, CA.
Anika has embraced her role as a cultural ambassador and has impressed her school community and host family with her positive attitude and dedication to learning American Sign Language (ASL).
Language is very important to Anika and her host family. A native speaker of Afrikaans, Anika also knows Xhosa and started studying ASL on her own last year. Having mentioned this in her application to the YES program, she was placed in a host family where she could improve her ASL skills. Anika’s host dad is deaf, her host mom is an ASL interpreter, and both host parents do non-profit work in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Anika not only practices ASL at home but also connects and volunteers within that community. Anika sees learning ASL not just as a fun and interesting pastime, but as a skill that she can use later in life as a medical doctor. She takes ASL classes in her spare time and can now communicate fluently and tell jokes masterfully. Her host parents are impressed by her passion and drive and always want “to try and stump her” in ASL.
Anika likes to make a difference and connect with others through volunteer work. She volunteers at her high school’s sporting events and at the National Night Out in her area. She has served the NorCal Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing at a variety of local fairs, creating presentations and workshops on in-demand topics such as diabetes and internet use. She also recently volunteered at a local Christmas parade and the Playzeum, a non-profit, interactive children’s museum.
Anika is a motivated student and works hard to maintain an A average in all her courses. She takes a special interest in advanced psychology and math. Anika has joined the volleyball, cross country, and wrestling teams at Wheatland Union High School, is part of the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) club, and helped found the hiking club. She is also looking into joining the band, trying out for the soccer team, and establishing a foreign exchange student club. Anika is excited about these opportunities as she wants to experience things she has never tried before.
Anika has readily embraced the role of cultural ambassador and is passionate about sharing about South Africa with Americans. When talking with classmates at school, Anika says she loves “blowing their minds with all the things they didn’t know” about her home country. At home, Anika enthusiastically shares her culture and country with her host family, from discussing diversity to making typical South African desserts, such as a milk tart.
Anika continues to amaze those around her with her willingness to learn. Her host mom says Anika wants “to try, taste, see, and experience everything” that her time in the United States has to offer. Reflecting on her experience, Anika says, “Being an exchange student in California is literally a dream come true.”