By Mohamad Issa Jamal (2007-2008, Lebanon, placed by Ayusa in Bandera, TX), Shreya Soni (2019-2020, India, placed by World Link in Bakersfield, CA), Mira Sharayri (2016-2017, Jordan, placed by AFS in Two Harbors, MN), and Sweta Sadhu (2016-2017, India, placed by AYA in Rossville, KS)
The YES Connects Conference was a one-of-a-kind event that was organized for the first time this year! Forty YES alumni from around the world came together virtually on Zoom for two weeks from June 21–July 2, 2021. The conference consisted of a series of sessions facilitated entirely by the YES alumni themselves. The workshop participants were able to choose between ten different sessions facilitated by 16 YES alumni, covering topics such as photography, mental health, project management, wildlife conservation, poetry, computer science, pitching, media literacy, teaching, and budgeting.
Mohamad Issa Jamal from Lebanon says, "The YES Connects conference was an experience that will stay with
me for a long time. My favorite session was Creative Poetry because it helped me get in touch with my creative side."
Shreya Soni from India shares, "The YES Connects conference
was an exciting journey. I have loved each and every bit of it, from making friends with
talented alumni, to learning new things, and discovering shared interests. My favorite session was Mental Fitness, as it was so interactive and engaging. During this session participants contributed their thoughts on the importance of mental health and how they deal with it on a daily basis. It was a well rounded and informative session. For me, there were
many key takeaways from the conference: the importance of staying in
touch with others; communicating your ideas; and reaching out to people with similar interests to find opportunities to collaborate."
Mira Sharayri from Jordan reflects on the conference by sharing, "The past two weeks have given me a sense of nostalgia. Not only did I learn so much in so little time but I also got the chance to chat with
others that I could relate to. I loved the sessions The Basics of Photography, Being Media Smart and Budgeting. I really enjoyed getting to
know where each of my fellow alumni are in the world right now and what they are up to. I marvel at
how much the YES Connects Conference really connected us."
Sweta Sadhu from India writes, "The sessions at the YES Connects Conference were very diverse and fun to attend. I have always had a thing for photography
and attending the photography session enhanced my knowledge about the field. Although I'm not a professional photographer, the tips and tricks given in the session enhanced my ability to
take better photos. I think it is so wonderful to know that YES alumni are so full of
potential and talented in so many diverse fields."
A common thread among the YES Connects participants was that they all felt grateful to have participated in this conference. The conference gave them the opportunity to learn about new interests and connect with YES alumni from all over the world. Every participant had something to new contribute and share.