Above: Jimmy with his host dad and brother
We are happy to announce the June YES Student of the Month, Ebenezer “Jimmy” Yusuf, from Nigeria. He was placed by World Link and hosted in Kalona, IA, where he attended Hillcrest Academy.
Jimmy was well known in his small host community and was grateful for every opportunity and experience during his exchange year. In addition to volunteering more than 180 service hours, Jimmy became a celebrity at his host school and developed a bond with his host family that will last a lifetime.
Literally a rock star at his host school, Jimmy was a drummer in the pep band, leading the student section in many cheers and celebrations. He also played the keyboard for the band during off hours for fun. Through the FFA club at school, Jimmy found some of his favorite volunteering activities and also some of his closest American friends. His school counselor noted that Jimmy always had a smile on his face, got along well with everyone, and enriched their school.
One of Jimmy’s first U.S. volunteer activities was making apple fritters at the fall festival with his FFA peers. He also celebrated American holidays through volunteering. At Halloween, he scared attendees at a non-profit haunted corn maze. He served food to the underserved at Thanksgiving. At Christmas, he and fellow Compassion Club members led holiday-themed crafts with children at church. Jimmy was also a dedicated volunteer at his local YMCA, where he kept score for community sport games, his favorite activity.
For the holidays, Jimmy gave out handmade bracelets as gifts to his family and friends. He saw how well-liked they were, so he used this idea to raise money for a local homeless shelter for his GYSD project. With his host family’s help and support and by using social media and arranging safe drop-offs during the stay-at-home order, he sold bracelets to 30 people and raised $150 for the shelter.
Jimmy and his host family, the Ourses, loved spending time together and the current pandemic provided them a greater opportunity to do just that. They learned how to play pickleball—a paddle sport played with a whiffle ball on a badminton-sized court and a tennis-style net. Jimmy taught his host brother to play piano and he loved telling his family jokes at bedtime. It was sad to see him return home, but they know they will always be family. Jimmy’s host mom wrote, “Part of our family will now forever be in Nigeria.”