YES Programs



YES Inspires Community Service and New Career Paths

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By Amadu Gbassay Kabia (YES 2010-2011, Sierra Leone, placed by AYUSA in Harper, TX) 

My name is Amadu Gbassay Kabia, and I was among the first cohort of YES program students from Sierra Leone who were given the opportunity to study in the United States. In addition to successfully completing the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program in 2011, I was fortunate to give a speech on behalf of the program at a U.S. Senate reception. 

When I returned to Sierra Leone in 2011, I was among the first alumni to establish the Sierra Leone YES Alumni Association (SLYAA), where I also served as  president for a number of years. Since becoming a YES alum, I have implemented over 11 community service projects focused on education, health, environment, social, and peace building. I was inspired to volunteer and get involved in many community service activities because it was one of my favorite cultural experiences in the U.S., and upon my return to Sierra Leone, I have been trying to share those same experiences in communities I have visited in Sierra Leone. I have been able to implement these projects with support from members of SLYAA, YES program partners, iEARN–Sierra Leone, the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone, and other local community youth groups. The most impactful among the eleven projects I’ve implemented was the “Tree Planting Dam Project,” which supported a community of over 5,000 people to construct a miniature dam during a water crisis.

While completing my program in the U.S., my career goals also changed. Although it was difficult, I decided I wanted to become a civil engineer instead of a medical doctor, and I dreamed of designing and building infrastructure in Sierra Leone, ranging from buildings to roads, just like those I saw during my exchange year in the U.S. After completing my YES program year, I pursued that dream and was admitted to Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, where I graduated with an honors degree in Civil Engineering and Architecture. After completing a first-class degree with honors, I worked as a civil engineer in one of the engineering consulting firms in Sierra Leone, and at the same time volunteered as a teaching assistant at the Civil Engineering Department at Fourah Bay College. At the university, I was able to assist many students with civil and architectural software skills that helped them with their courses and prepared them for the job market. 

In 2021, I was awarded a scholarship by the Africa Centre of Excellence - Regional Transport Research and Education Centre Kumasi (TRECK) to pursue a Master’s degree in Road and Transportation Engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology located in Kumasi, Ghana. The award was financed by the Government of Ghana, with support from the World Bank, and throughout my time in Ghana, I had met a couple of fellow YES alumni and together we are developing project ideas. 

As a YES alum, I feel grateful every single day to the YES program, iEARN, AYUSA, the U.S. Department of State, and my host family for giving me the opportunity to gain leadership and professional experiences during and after my program year. 

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