YES Programs



"Peoria Empty Nest is Warmly Filled"

This article was published in the Peoria Independent on July 2, 2014. The story was written by Debbie Fransen.

This year, Susan Huber and Sam Thornton of Peoria opened their home to two exchange students for 10 months. The couple does not have any biological children but are filling their nest with children from around the world: Rachmad Iqbal Bhayangkara, from Indonesia, and Oguzhan Zobar from Turkey. These two boys have brought joy, diversity and love to their home. 

The boys attended Liberty High School and were a great asset to their student body. Dave Moore, their counselor, says that they were pleasant, upbeat, and well liked by their classmates. Iqbal participated in bowling, enjoyed the school spirit and was in awe of how big and energized Liberty High School was; his school in Indonesia only has 900 students. 

Oguzhan says his favorite part of Liberty High School was his English teacher, David Pischke. Mr Pischke left a huge impression on him and made English fun and not boring. Oguzhan said that every day was different and Mr. Pischke put a lot of time into preparing engaging and interactive lessons, much different from what he experienced in Turkey. 

Host parents Ms. Huber and Mr. Thornton hosted a girl from Kosovo two years ago and they enjoyed their host daughter from Kosovo so much they decided to do it again this year with these two boys. One of their favorite things to do was cook dinner together. 

The boys cooked dishes from their countries and learned to cook American dishes. Sitting around the dinner table eating together, sharing about their countries and their days, was some of their most memorable times together. Ms. Huber and Mr. Thornton also enjoyed showing Iqbal and Oguzhan the sights of Arizona. 

Iqbal and Oguzhan came to the United States with the AYUSA organization on a grant through the U.S. Department of State. The Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program interviews over 5,000 students from all over the globe and chose about 830 students to come study in the U.S. to be ambassadors of peace, representing their countries. The grant allows qualified high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend on academic year in the United States to help build better relations between these countries and USA.

Students choose to come to the United States to become fluent in English, learn about American culture and share their culture. Along the way, the exchange students become family members with their host families. AYUSA welcomes many student similar to Oguzhan and Iqbal to the United States to study for a year at the local high schools. 

For more information about hosting, contact AYUSA at, 888-552-9872. You can also complete a host family interest form on