YES Programs



YES 20TH ANNIVERSARY SPOTLIGHT: Ngwanvok Noupeye Olive Dorcas

YES 20th anniversary graphic with photo of Olive

By Ngwanvok Noupeye Olive Dorcas (YES 2019-2020, Cameroon, placed by AFS in Cross Plains, WI)

What are some of your biggest accomplishments since becoming an alumni of the YES program?

The YES program helped me to have the attitude of a leader. Since my exchange year, I have been taking up leadership positions in various areas of my life, including at school as class delegate and as a YES alumni leader, through which I've helped in the successful training of other YES students from Cameroon. I also worked in the implementation of various projects such as "Empowering Women to be the Change," as well as "A shade of Hope for the Disabled," and I was a participant in the Project Management in Practice workshop.

What are some of your favorite memories from the YES program?

My favorite memories from the YES program are the various trips that I made to different cities, towns, and states. It was amazing that I got to visit new places, taste new foods, and spend quality time with my host family, friends, and other exchange students. Another one of my favorite memories is the game and movie times at home with my host family. Sometimes there was some kind of competition, usually initiated by my host brother, and we enjoyed having fun, laughing, being together, and enjoying each others' company. Movie times spent with my host sister, host family, friends and team mates were very memorable, as I got to bond with them and reinforce our relationships.

I remember one day, my host sister and I had an assignment for our concert choir class. We had to submit a song online, since it was during COVID-19 and we couldn't go to school, so we all came together as a family and sang while I played the piano. Though I was not very confident, since I was still learning to play the piano, we had a great outcome and I had a lot of support from them.

Olive sitting with others at a picnic table outside eating a meal together

I think for the rest of my life, I won't forget the memories I have from my time at Middleton High School, be it cross country, theatre and musicals, team sports, teachers, and classmates/friends. Even just thinking back makes me nostalgic and makes me want to relive those memories again, as well as make new ones. My whole stay in the U.S. was memorable and was one of the best years of my life, and almost all the memories from that time are my favorite memories so far.

I will not end without talking about holidays and celebrations, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year, Easter, and even Halloween. I would describe them as awesome memories because I had a lot of fun singing Christmas carols, watching plays about Christmas stories, going to the corn maze, sharing and unwrapping of Christmas gifts, drawing new year resolutions, going Easter egg hunting, teaching and learning how to cook foods, and so much more. It would take me a whole book to write about my memories from the program, which I'm thankful for.

What are some of the ways you’ve stayed connected to fellow alumni since your exchange experience? What about your host family or friends?

I have stayed connected to fellow alumni through video calls and chats on social media like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat. I also speak often to my host family members and friends through phone calls and chats, and also sometimes video calls. Another way through which I stay connected to fellow alumni is through Zoom meetings, workshops, and in-person during project implementation, mostly with Cameroon alumni.

How did the YES program impact you professionally? What about personally?

The YES program helped me to build new relationships, which has opened doors for more professional opportunities for me, currently and in the future. Though I am still a college student, through projects brought forth by the YES program, I have learned new skills and also improved on skills that I already had. These skills help me in every aspect of my life, both personally and professionally. I also obtained work experience from volunteering in activities of the YES program.

Olive poses smiling with host family indoors

I believe through the workshops I participated in as an alumni of the YES program, as well as throughout my exchange year, I have learned a lot of new things that have positively built up my character and personality The YES program also provide opportunities for me to implement project ideas that are beneficial to me and to my community. The YES program provides alumni opportunities weekly and even monthly that I can apply to, and if selected, can bring me to a higher professional level.

What is one piece of advice you would give to current or future YES program participants?

I would advice them to take their exchange year seriously and make the best of it, because this is a life-changing experience that will be a remarkable and impactful boost to their present and future, provided they use their time and resources wisely. I would advice them to follow guidelines given to them by the program at PDO and DCO orientations, because they are important and very helpful. I would also advice them not to minimize the importance of creating new relationships because we don't know what the future holds, and anybody can be the stepping stone needed to achieve greater things in the future. Always remember the words "not better, not worse, just different," and apply it in every decision-making process.

In 10, 20, or even 30 years, what do you hope the legacy of the YES program will be?

In the nearest and distant future, I wish that the impact of the YES program worldwide should be greater and known to the majority of the world. I also hope that alumni participation and engagement will increase, and that more and more helpful community projects should be implemented in various countries that will help improve standards of living and better the lives of many. I hope that in 20 years' time, people can look back in their lives and smile at the thought of the wonderful things this program has offered to them, both alumni and non-alumni.

Olive posing with her host family outside in front of statue