By Mohamed Shali (YES 2014-2015, Kenya, placed by AFS-USA in McKinleyville, CA)
My name is Mohamed Shali, a fourth-year Bachelor of Commerce student at the University of Nairobi. During my exchange year, I was hosted by the Tidwell family and attended McKinleyville High School. I attribute the success of my exchange year to my host family and host school. To this day, I share an incredibly special bond with my host family – we went from being strangers to being a true family. The YES program has had quite a significant impact on my life. Through this program, I have become a responsible, global citizen.
Upon my return to Kenya, I began comparing our education system to that of the United States, and I realized that some aspects are similar, but some are very different. One difference that I wish could be incorporated into our education system is the notion of career counseling services. Public schools in the U.S. have dedicated career counseling departments that assist students to transition easily from high school to university. Like many who have attended public secondary school in Kenya, I faced significant challenges when deciding on a university major and selecting the right institution of higher learning. I realized that while I could not transform our entire education system, I could make a difference using the resources that I have access to as a young YES alumnus. That is why I decided to apply for a YES Alumni Grant to organize a high school career fair in Lamu County, Kenya.
The goal of my project, Lamu High School Career Fair, was to provide career counseling services to 50 high school students. Participants engaged in lectures by people working in different professions, career aptitude tests, discussions, and games. Prior to the two-day workshop, most of the students were only aware of professions like teaching and medicine due to limited exposure of career fields in their community. After the workshop, participants could clearly identify and describe at least ten different career paths and the best universities for different majors. Participants were also informed about scholarship opportunities available to Lamu students by Mary Stone, manager of the Lamu Island Children Fund.
The positive impact of this project was evident. The participants expressed deep appreciation for the knowledge and opportunities they gained, and they eagerly requested similar workshops to be conducted regularly. Some participants even suggested repeating this workshop every three months!
The participants will play a pivotal role in ensuring the project’s sustainability by establishing career clubs in their schools. These clubs will provide a platform for the YES alumni community to maintain a presence, continue engaging with students, and further promote the importance of career development. I personally learned a lot about project development and management throughout this experience.
In conclusion, I would like to express my profound gratitude to AFS staff and volunteers and to the YES alumni on my project team for their hard work in implementing this project. Like so many other amazing YES alumni projects around the world, this would not have happened without the sponsors of the YES program, the U.S Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Sending my sincere gratitude to ECA and to the YES program.