YES is highlighting an alum from each year of the program.
Above: Livanur on her first day of school and Elizabeth trying cotton candy for the first time.
We are pleased to announce two YES Student of the Month winners for November!
Livanur Bilge Ceylan from Turkey (Türkiye) is placed by World Link in Reedley, CA where she attends Reedley High School.
Livanur’s host mom, Michelle Patillo, refers to her as her “little Turkish firecracker” because of her infectious laugh and lovable personality, “She has an energy that is contagious and has a way of making everyone smile,” she said.
With her motivation, drive, and commitment, Livanur has already performed nearly 30 hours of community service and made a positive impact on all those around her. She found her first volunteer opportunity at the Dinuba Fire Department, where she stuffed envelopes and spent a whole day making sure the station was cleaned from top to bottom. While setting up for a local church’s community dinner, Livanur was delighted by the guests’ great interest in her churches and culture back home. After volunteering at the Dinuba Raisin Day Harvest Festival, Livanur was invited to share more about her culture on stage. Other service activities include a park clean up with the Chamber of Commerce, working for a non-profit theater, and serving lunch for a cancer benefit. Two different event organizers have said Livanur is the best student volunteer they’ve had. She’s fun, she connects with others, and she’s a hard worker.
In addition, Livanur is thriving in school with straight A’s, joined the Key Club, Students for Peace, and the volleyball team, and will be singing in the upcoming Christmas concert. She is also active in the community, as a member of the Leo club and a Junior Board Member for the City of Reedley, California’s Chamber of Commerce, through which she will be implementing community projects and collaborating with local businesses, city government, and other organizations.
Livanur’s host mom says she is an amazing young lady with an eagerness that is beyond anything she’s seen. “She is so helpful with anything anyone needs and takes pride in every job she does. I absolutely love her with my whole heart."
Livanur has been an excellent ambassador for her country and the YES program. Congratulations, Livanur!
Elizabeth Daara from Ghana is placed by Program of Academic Exchange (PAX) in Dorset, VT where she attends Long Trail School.
Elizabeth exemplifies the courage and strength of character it takes to participate in an educational exchange abroad and to embrace a completely different life from the one she’s always known. She has done an incredible job adapting to her new home and culture and readily tries new activities and foods with her family — kayaking, hamburgers, hot dogs, cheeses, and mushrooms, to name a few. Although Elizabeth had no experience running or participating in a team sport, she joined the cross-country team at school. She never misses a practice, even on chilly or rainy days. In addition, she recently joined the basketball team for the winter season and signed up for a local ski and snowboarding program.
Elizabeth has wasted no time getting involved with her host family who appreciate her positive attitude. She involved her host sisters in cooking Ghanaian meals for the family, and volunteered with her host brother to help a neighbor. Her host mother says, “Our family appreciates Liz’s gentleness and overall selflessness. She is always ready to help around the house or hang out with her host siblings. She models kindness and selflessness to her younger host siblings.”
Elizabeth has volunteered for 34 hours so far, including preparing back-to-school care packages for children in need at her host family’s church, helping distribute food at the local food pantry, and serving as an usher at the local theater. In addition, she has volunteered at two local libraries to re-shelve books and as a camerawoman for a public presentation.
Shortly after school started, she put together a presentation of a Ghanaian cultural dance for her advisory at school, and for International Education Week, Elizabeth presented to the entire school. She has also been working after school as part of a tech crew for the upcoming school play.
Elizabeth has thoroughly embraced being an exchange student and representing Ghana and the YES program. Congratulations, Elizabeth!