YES Programs



YES Program's Legacy: Inspiring a More Peaceful and Solidary World

Alumnae Shown Speaking On Stage

By Shomy Hasan Chowdhury (YES 2011-2012, Bangladesh, placed by PAX in Cheboygan, MI)

Over a decade ago, I embarked on a life-changing journey as a participant of the YES program. Little did I know that this exchange year in the United States would go beyond a cultural experience; it would mold me into a better person, a responsible global citizen, and a future leader in the field of international development.

Alumnae Poses Behind United Nations Podium

One of the most valuable aspects of the YES program was its focus on expanding my mindset through exposure to diversity. Engaging in community service allowed me to give back and connect with my host community. This experience gave me a profound understanding of different realities, far removed from my own. I found myself volunteering for 460 hours and even earning a prestigious gold President's Volunteer Service Award. This recognition not only boosted my motivation and confidence, but it also equipped me with valuable skills that I continue to utilize in my projects as an alumna. While working with various groups, such as young people, senior citizens, and people with disabilities, I learned to comprehend complex issues and contribute effectively. Moreover, cultural exchange with students from all over the world expanded my horizons beyond what I could learn from a simple internet search. It taught me to approach problem-solving with human-centered design thinking, how to be prepared for the unexpected, and to remain resilient in times of crisis.

Alumnae Posing In Front Of White House Podium

Another significant impact of the YES program was the boost in my confidence and leadership skills. Coming from a small country in the global south, I have seen young girls and women like me battling imposter syndrome and missing out on growth opportunities. However, my YES exchange transformed me into a more confident and outspoken individual. When I returned to my home country, the YES Alumni Bangladesh Association provided me with a nurturing community where I could explore new possibilities, make mistakes, and learn from failures. Eventually, I founded my own organization, Awareness 360, which is a Forbes 30 Under 30 listed global non-profit, empowering youths in over 40 countries to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Today, I serve as a development professional and a WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) expert, making an impact on multiple international platforms in leadership and advisory roles. All of this would not have been possible without the values and skills instilled in me by the YES program.

Alumnae Speaking Seated Onstage At Event

Empathy, another vital trait fostered by the YES program, has transformed my leadership style. The lack of global solidarity is evident in various instances, from the fights over toilet paper rolls during the pandemic to the hoarding of life-saving vaccines by wealthy nations. Long-term conflicts continue to plague our world, leaving ordinary people vulnerable and suffering in dire conditions. To address these issues, we need empathetic leaders who can put themselves in others' shoes and practice compassionate communication. The YES program's impact reaches far beyond individual growth and early career stages. By consciously investing in building empathetic leaders, programs like YES can play a pivotal role in shaping a more peaceful and harmonious world.

Alumae Poses With Three Others During Exchange Year

This heightened sense of global solidarity drives us to be more compassionate and proactive in addressing global challenges. As YES alumni, we are committed to fostering collaboration and cooperation between nations, transcending borders and cultural barriers. We understand that our actions have ripple effects across the world, and we strive to promote harmony and mutual understanding in an increasingly interconnected global community.

As YES alumni, we carry the responsibility of upholding the values we gained during our exchange year. We actively work towards breaking down stereotypes, fostering understanding, and championing inclusivity. Our collective efforts, as a global network of YES alumni, exemplify the potential of young people to contribute significantly to a more united world.

Alumnae Talking With A Group Of People Into Microphone

Through YES, we not only create lasting friendships, but also forge bonds of solidarity that surpass borders and time. As we continue to grow in our careers and impact the world positively, we remain united by the common thread of our YES experience. Together, we embody the power of global solidarity to shape a brighter future for generations to come.

I am forever grateful to the YES program and the U.S. State Department for their long-term investment in young people like me, paving the way for a brighter future. As the YES community celebrates its 20th anniversary, I hope for its continued success, recognizing its indispensable role in fostering global solidarity. In a world that yearns for unity and understanding, programs like YES hold the key to a more harmonious and compassionate future.

Alumnae Speaks In Front Of Group Of Young People