Hello there, everyone!
I've received quite a lot of questions lately about YES and exactly what it is, what is included, what it's mission is, and so on, so I decided to make a blog post detailing just a bit more about what it entails.
The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program (YES) was proposed by Senators Ted Kennedy and Richard Lugar in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This unique program was established to provide the youth of countries with significant Muslim populations with a view of America, and also to help Americans to have a new, more meaningful understanding of Islam and it's followers. The YES program received funding and began in 2003, and has exchanged over 4,000 students from over 40 countries to the United States, where they live with a family and attend school and basically just show Americans who they are. The program has definitely been a huge success, and has impacted the lives of every one of those students as well as their host families and everyone else who they've met.
After seeing the enormous positive impact that YES had on intercultural American-Muslim relations, YES Abroad was formed. This program has a similar focus and idea of YES, but it sends 50 American students yearly to one of 10 countries (Ghana, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Thailand, and Turkey). In 2009, this program was started as a pilot program, and sent students with multiple different administrations for the program-- semester programs to Mali, Morocco and Oman and year programs to Ghana, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey. YES received full funding starting in the 2011-12 school year, the year that I will be travelling with them. Students with YES are sent with different sending organizations-- this year Mali is with iEarn, Morocco and Oman are with AMIDEAST, and Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey are with AFS (Egypt normally would be in this category but was cancelled this year due to political instability). YES Abroad is a much smaller program than YES, and sends only 50 students as opposed to hundreds.
Both YES and YES Abroad are sponsored by the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. What is included in this package is all expenses paid, includes secondary medical coverage, round-trip airfare, and a monthly stipend. In return, YES students represent their home country, wherever that may be. They also fill out monthly surveys for the American Councils for International Education (ACIE) and give presentations.
By being picked as YES Abroad finalists, myself and 49 other finalists have been selected to an incredibly high honor-- the opportunity to be ambassadors from and representatives of the United States of America.
Hope this was informational and filled you in just a little bit more about the program I'm with and what it's mission is!