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"American school is so neat," signs Belvion, a Deaf exchange student from Mozambique who communicates using sign language. "They've got libraries and computers and the teachers are great. I'm loving it."
Belvion is one of the many high school students with disabilities who come to the United States every year to live and study on an exchange program. Are you ready to be an exchange student too?
Find out which organizations have recruited the most participants with disabilities to the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program!
Did you know that between 2007-2016, nearly half of all students with disabilities selected for the YES program have been Deaf? Or that almost 60% of FLEX students with disabilities have a physical disability?
Students with a physical disability, such as Cerebral Palsy and Short Stature, make up 40% of the more than 250 students with disabilities who have participated in the FLEX and YES programs since 2007. Blind and low vision students make up the next largest category of students with disabilities.
More than a dozen youth exchange organizations place FLEX and YES students with and without disabilities in U.S. host communities each year. Those that have placed the most students with disabilities? AFS USA, Program of Academic Exchange (PAX) and ASSE!
Find infographics about the percentage of students with disabilities placed at specialized vs. mainstream schools.
Which U.S. states have hosted the most students with disabilities? If you guessed states in the Midwest and Upper Midwest, you're right! Altogether, students with disabilities have been hosted in 43 U.S. states and the District of Columbia over the last ten years.
MIUSA invites you to explore disability inclusion in the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs, 2007-2016.
Over the last ten years, students with disabilities from 37 diverse countries have participated in the FLEX and YES programs. From Montenegro to Mozambique, students with disabilities are among the leaders of the future.
At just 16 years old, Ana was so confident that she and her wheelchair would soon be on their way to the U.S., she told practically everyone she knew that she had applied to the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Although Ana didn’t make the final selection pool the first time, she tried again a year later.
"When I applied the second time, I didn’t tell anybody except my mom. Most of my family found out that I was going to fly two days before my flight when we had my farewell party. They were shocked!"
Pinar, a Turkish high school student who is blind, received a full scholarship to study abroad on the U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. “Of course, my parents were really worried because my safety is important to them. Probably the most important thing!” says Pinar, reflecting on her experience. She lived with an American host family on weekends and stayed on campus at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind during the week.
Melissa Gulledge, CIEE Regional Director from South Carolina, has years of experience placing international exchange students from all over the world with American families, but a last minute decision to host a teenager with a disability led to one of her own family’s most meaningful hosting experiences.
The clock was ticking to match Pinar, a young woman from Turkey who is blind, with a host family and school.
I will never forget the day I met my host father, Mark, in the arrivals terminal at Bishop International airport. Mark offered his hand and greeted me by saying, “Merhaba,” which means hello in Turkish. I was both surprised and happy at the sincerity of his greeting and instantly felt very close to Mark. My first impression proved true, and throughout the year I had a very strong relationship with my host family.