This spring, nearly 2,000 students on high school exchange programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State will say good-bye to their U.S. host families and travel home to countries around the world. Tearful departures and emotional reunions await these students and their families.
Among them are 29 students with disabilities who lived, studied, and volunteered in host communities in twenty U.S. states this year, from Maine to Michigan to Hawaii.
They include Batuhan, a blind student from Turkey, whose Youth Exchange and Study (YES) experience included more than 70 hours of community service at a Milwaukee non-profit called Audio & Braille Literacy Enhancement (ABLE).
All the tactiles, graphs, and maps they created amazed me when I first started volunteering there. We don't have any organizations like ABLE in Turkey, and I think every blind person in Turkey would love to see these kind of things. So I am going to take some samples with me when I go back to Turkey.
Thanks to ParaSport Spokane, Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) student, Polina, returns to her home country with a new passion for wheelchair basketball.
I used to do competitive swimming, but since it wasn’t a team sport, I definitely can say that wheelchair basketball was new for me. And I’m glad I started it! It really is a huge part of my overall experience. I really want to keep doing it after I go back to Russia.
One of three Deaf students who participated in the YES program this year, Erika returns to the Philippines a beloved member of the Oregon School for the Deaf (OSD) community where she was involved in volleyball, track and field, dance, yearbook, and student government. "There are no strangers here. Only friends whom I haven’t [yet] met."
Thanks to the generosity of host families and the support of schools, communities, and countless others, the world has 29 new youth leaders with disabilities ready to share diverse skills and new insights in their home countries.
To learn about opportunities to host a high school exchange student on one of these prestigious programs, contact MIUSA or visit the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs website.