We are happy to announce the March 2020 YES Student of the Month, Sana Balghonaim, from Saudi Arabia! Sana is placed by Greenheart in Richmond, ME, where she attends Richmond Middle and High School.
Sana had a great start to her school year. She was very involved with her host school and local community, sharing her positive, upbeat attitude and willingness to try new things.
Sana has contributed to her host community by volunteering 86 hours. She was a “big buddy” at the elementary school, where she helped kids create set pieces for the town’s recreation department drama production. Sana also assisted with coaching wrestling to young children this winter as she was learning the sport herself. She volunteered at the town food pantry and earned the respect of regular volunteers with her poise and caring attitude.
At school, Sana was a first-time wrestler who weathered challenging practices and wore her bruises as badges of honor. In February, she wrestled in the state championship without getting pinned. She also joined the band and the chorus at school, both of which were new activities for her. She auditioned for honors choir last fall, was selected for the District III Honors Music Festival, and performed with the treble choir at the Honors Festival on January 25. Sana was also a member of the FIRST robotics team Delta Prime, for which she challenged herself to learn how to code in order to program the robot that the team designed. However, with only one week to go, the competition was cancelled, along with school and all her other activities.
In true YES program style, Sana has taken these disappointments in stride. According to her host mom, Liana, Sana “is the most calm, low-stress exchange student I could possibly imagine hosting during a global pandemic!” Sana is now keeping up with her schoolwork online, helping around the house and with dinner, learning how to change a tire with her host dad, and spending quality time with her host family. She has been playing and riding bikes with her host sisters, who now ask for Sana to put them to bed at night. She happily obliges. For her 18th birthday they had a quiet, family-only party at home.
Sana is still dedicated to being an active YES participant despite the current social distancing restrictions. She is working on a video presentation about her life in Saudi Arabia to share with her host sister’s 2nd grade class online, and she and her host mom are starting to brainstorm ideas about how they can volunteer from home so that Sana can reach her goal of 100 volunteer service hours. Her host mom summed up the experience of hosting Sana during the pandemic: “We still love having her with us, and she still loves being here!”