YES Programs



YES Alumni Grant: Educating Beyond Academics

Highlight Asfandyar  Behind The Scenes Of Taking A Feedback Of The Workshop

By Muhammad Asfandyar, YES 2012-13, Pakistan, hosted by CIEE in Indianapolis, IN

I am Muhammad Asfandyar, a law student studying at Khyber Law College at the University of Peshawar. The YES program has played a key factor in the course of my life so far. As a YES student, I learned how to adjust to a completely new family, surroundings, and country. Over the year, my relationship with my host family – I prefer to call them “my family” – blossomed in a way I would never have imagined at the start. I was loved as if I was their real child. The day I was leaving the U.S., I went to give the house keys back to my dad. He gave me a hug and said, “These keys belong to you. This is your home. Feel free to visit us any time you want without knocking on the door.”  

Use Asfandyar Yes Alumnus Briefing A Group Of Kids On A Group Activity
An alumnus briefing participants on a group activity

Arriving back home to Pakistan, I realized the importance and value of community service, something I had gained experience with during my year in the U.S. Going from being so shy I was unable to speak to fourth graders during my first YES alumni project to leading more than 50 projects myself is a change I never anticipated. Organizing and implementing a workshop or project requires leadership, analytical, communication, and interpersonal skills, and through the years volunteering as a YES alumnus, I have improved on all these skills. They have helped me understand national and societal issues as well as the role of youth in society.

Asfandyar Students Presenting The Topic Given To Their Group
Students presenting to group

The educational system in Peshawar mainly promotes technical education focused on economic results, preparing students to land good jobs and achieve financial stability in economically difficult times. In the process, however, other equally important issues crucial for our children’s education are ignored. Through formal education, children do not learn the important values of community service, active citizenship and civic duty, children's rights, or personal responsibility. Students focus on scoring the highest grade and pay almost no heed to other vital skills necessary in the modern world.

Asfandyar  Participants Planting Trees On Account Of Volunteerism Activity
Students participating in tree and flower planting activity

It is with this issue in mind that I decided to apply for a YES Alumni Grant to hold a workshop to teach youths skills that go beyond academics. The three-day workshop was implemented at Peshawar Model School for 50 underprivileged students on the themes gender equality, environmental protection, community service, children's rights, active citizenship, teambuilding, and health and personal hygiene. The workshop sessions were followed by interactive activities and a Q&A session for students to ask questions to the trainers. We aimed to foster active citizenship and help participants develop other personal and professional skills which are often on the periphery of academics. Volunteers also carried out a social media campaign throughout the workshop to reach people who couldn't attend. The benefits of physical exercise and sports were also introduced. The workshop included a sports day as well as a planting activity where students planted flowers and trees around the school. 

Asfandyar  A Glimpse Of Day 3
Students listening to trainer

The school administrators and students showed great enthusiasm and energy during the workshop. In post-workshop evaluations, 100% of participants agreed this workshop served as a practical tool to learn the importance of extra-curricular activities and skills going beyond academics.

Participant feedback included:

“Before this workshop, I had not even heard about gender equality. This workshop opened a new way of thinking for me,” said Ahsan, a freshman in high school.

“I want to serve my community and volunteer in my area after the session on community service,” said Furqan at the end of the workshop. 

Use Asfandyar  Team  Academic Skills Development Program
The project team

This was a one-of-a-kind experience for me – it was the largest workshop I have ever organized in terms of number of alumni involved and number of sessions conducted over the span of three days. I am grateful and thankful to YES program for providing me the opportunity to be an exchange student and to my placement organization, CIEE, for giving me a family for life. And I extend my gratitude and thanks to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for funding my project and providing me the motivation to do more good for the world.