We are happy to announce the YES October Student of the Month, Koena Semenya. Koena is from South Africa, placed by Program of Academic Exchange (PAX), and hosted in Huntington, VT.
Koena’s host family says he has easily blended into their lives and their family. He finds joy in sharing his language and his culture with his host family, and they feel lucky to be hosting him. Around the house, Koena willingly pitches in with chores and has begun teaching himself to play the harmonica and the piano.
Koena has eagerly gotten involved in his new community, and completed 32 hours of volunteer service. Within the first week after his arrival in the United States, Koena began volunteering at the Green Mountain Audubon Center summer camp, where he received an award for “exemplary service.” As a junior counselor-in-training working with counselors and campers, Koena has embraced the role of cultural ambassador by his commitment to building relationships with everyone at the camp. He states, “It’s good to admire change, but being the cause of change is even more beautiful.” Keona has also volunteered at NorthWoods Stewardship Center and Saint Michael’s College, where he led cross-cultural games with his host mother’s Introduction to Cultural Anthropology class. Showing his initiative and desire to serve, he noticed a neighbor’s need for help and spent four hours stacking wood and painting.
At Mount Mansfield Union High School, Koena has taken on an ambitious course load, including advanced classes such as Chemistry, Adventure Sports, and Spanish. Koena’s host brother is also learning Spanish in school, so they often practice together at home. Koena’s teachers commend him on his “energetic and joyful” approach to learning and class participation. In addition, Koena is an enthusiastic member of the school’s soccer team, and has joined its Robotics Club and Chorale.
Koena is a great representative of South Africa and the YES program.