To celebrate Global Youth Service Day 2021, the YES program hosted a series of Instagram Live events. Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) celebrates and encourages youth to make a positive change in the world by leading and participating in projects and activities that improve the quality of life in their communities.
The YES program hosted four Instagram Live events; each event included a pair of stakeholders who discussed GYSD and encouraged YES alumni to engage in the annual community service event. The Instagram Live interviews shared advice on how to become involved with GYSD, shared tips on implementing community service projects both virtually and in-person, and shared the incredible impact that GYSD has had on communities across the world.
Find more about the GYSD 2021 Instagram Live series below!
April 7 at 11am ET: YES alumnus Usama Khilji (YES 2005-2006, Pakistan, placed with Pacific Intercultural Exchange in Morrisdale, PA) will interview Katie Reusch, the Director of Partnerships at Youth Service America (YSA) about the mission of YSA and how youth can get involved in GYSD by utilizing the resources available on the YSA website.
Usama Khilji is an activist and columnist based in Islamabad, Pakistan. He is the Director of Bolo Bhi, Columnist at Dawn, board member of the Global Network Initiative, Advisor to Refugee Rights Europe, and member of the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Systemic Inequalities and Social Cohesion, and an active YES alumnus in Pakistan.
Katie Reusch joined Youth Service America in 2016 to empower youth to become active members in their communities. As the Director of Partnerships, she works closely with YSA’s Youth and Community Partners as well as their Lead Agency Grantees. Before joining YSA, Katie worked in the government and non-profit sectors, including the United Nations, Journey’s End Refugee Services, and the Close Up Foundation. She holds a Master’s degree in Diplomacy and International Relations from Seton Hall University and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and French from St. Bonaventure University.
April 14 at 12pm ET: YES alumnus Xhonatan Mehmeti (YES 2018-2019, Albania, placed with BFF in Cary, NC) will be interviewed by YES alumna Eftelya Simsek (YES 2018-2019, Turkey, placed with AYA/AIFS in Mineral Ridge, OH) about how to implement GYSD projects, discuss their past GYSD projects, and share advice with students and alumni who want to get involved in GYSD.
Xhonatan Mehmeti lives in Vlorë, Albania, next to the sea. Currently, Xhonatan is interning at a local youth center during his gap year. During his exchange in the U.S., Xhonatan learned the importance of volunteering. After returning to Albania, he became an active volunteer at the American Corner Vlora and Vlora Youth Center. He has been implementing community service projects since his return in the hopes that his local actions can make a global impact and change.
Efteyla Simsek is a YES 2019 alumna from Turkey. Since returning from the U.S., she has been volunteering in many different fields. During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, Eftelya started the Sosyal Uzaklas-ma project to provide free psychological support to teenagers in need through volunteer psychologists.
April 21 at 9am ET: AMIDEAST staff members and YES alumni Leen Al Yaman (YES 2008-2009, Lebanon, placed with Greenheart Exchange in Honolulu, HI) and Khaled Shaath (YES 2005-2006, Gaza, placed with CIEE in Leavenworth, WA) will share tips on implementing GYSD projects and give advice on project management.
Leen Al Yaman has been working on the YES program at AMIDEAST Lebanon since August 2016 and is a YES 2008-2009 alumna. She pursued her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Human Resources Management at Haigazian University in Beirut on a fully-funded scholarship. During university, she held several internships, including at the Lebanese Central Bank, the Nawaya Network, AMIDEAST, and at Lebanon Reforestation Initiative. Upon graduation, she started her career as an Administrative and HR Coordinator at Lebanon Reforestation Initiative for a full year before joining AMIDEAST. Leen is very passionate about her work with the YES alumni network, knowing firsthand the life-changing impact this program has on alumni. For her, the YES experience does not end upon returning home.
Khaled Shaath works at the AMIDEAST Gaza office since he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2011. He works on many scholarship programs, but his main focuses are the YES and Fulbright programs. The YES program has a personal value in Khaled’s heart because he was a YES student in Washington State in 2005-2006. Khaled has a passion for sports, mental health issues, and well-being, and most importantly youth empowerment through training and education. Khaled believes that a nation’s well-being and success are built upon a well-educated and motivated young generation.
April 23 at 11am ET: YES alumnus Ljupche Stojanov (YES 2012-2013, North Macedonia, placed with AYA/AIFS in Kansas City, MO) will join Kris McElwee, YES Program Officer at the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, for a conversation about why volunteering is such a critical component of the YES program and the importance of GYSD. Kris and Ljupche met while Kris worked as an Assistant Public Affairs Officer in Skopje. Kris had the opportunity to meet many YES and YES Abroad exchange participants, including Ljupche.
Ljupche Stojanov is a YES student from 2012-2013 and was placed in Kansas City, MO. He currently lives in Skopje, North Macedonia, and is working as a Customer Quality Engineer at Johnson Matthey.
Kris McElwee is a public diplomacy-coned officer serving as a YES program officer. She previously worked on health, science, and environmental issues in Paris, as an Assistant Public Affairs Officer in Skopje, and in an environmental and consular rotation in Managua. Before joining the State Department in 2011, she worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Hawaii, assisting U.S. flag Pacific Islands to address coral reef conservation, oil spill response preparation, and marine debris. Kris graduated from Case Western Reserve University in geology and has a master’s in marine resource management from Oregon State University; during an internship in Senegal, she evaluated the impacts of management of dams on the Senegal River. She also served as an agroforestry Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya.