Youth Exchange and Study Programs or YES Programs are full scholarship student exchange programs administered by the U.S. Department of State. YES includes the "inbound" program for students from close to 40 Muslim dominant countries to study and live in the U.S., and the "outbound" program, called YES Abroad, for students from the U.S. to study in selected YES countries.
The Kennedy-Lugar YES Program evolved out of a generalized recognition that public diplomacy efforts had been neglected in many countries around the world for many years and that the effects of this came into stark focus in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, along with the U.S. exchange community, recognized the importance of youth exchange as a key component of renewed commitment to building bridges between citizens of the U.S. and countries around the world, particularly those with significant Muslim populations.
Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program
The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program was established in October 2002. The program provides scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend up to one academic year in the United States. The first class of YES students arrived in the United States in 2003. The program has continued to expand, and has made connections across more than 40 countries:
- Israel (Arab Communities)
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- West Bank
Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad program
The Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, was initiated as a reciprocal extension of the YES program with the first group of American high school students and recent graduates participating in the 2009-10 academic year. YES Abroad is focused on cultural exchange and offers full scholarships for one academic year to live and study abroad in selected YES countries.
The scholarship covers costs related to round-trip airfare, room and board for necessary pre-departure orientations, support within the host country, cultural enrichment activities, school tuition (where applicable), room and board with a host family, secondary medical benefits, visa fees, and a modest stipend.
As of 2018, YES Abroad countries include:
YES Abroad students serve as “youth ambassadors” of the United States, promoting mutual understanding by forming lasting relationships with their host families and communities. Participants live with a host family, attend a local high school, acquire leadership skills, and engage in activities to learn about the host country’s society and values; they also help educate others about American society and values.
YES Alumni Associations
YES students returning from their exchange year in U.S. are welcomed by the alumni communities in their country. These YES alumni communities actually help students to settle back into the culture after having had a whole year of learning, and these YES alumni communities are also responsible for helping returnees to cope with the reverse-culture shocks.
Most of the YES alumni communities across the world are involved with volunteering activities that span over educational, cultural and recreational learning. However, these activities are not limited to managing educational projects but also include participation in rehabilitation and social welfare projects. For instance, YES Alumni Pakistan, one of the biggest YES alumni associations in the world, is involved with many of the abovementioned activities all across the year, examples being the rehabilitation project after the 2010 Pakistani floods, the YES Ramadan project in 2013, and numerous other alumni led workshops and seminars. Yes Alumni Albania as well has gotten involved even though one of the smallest ones, they are the first ones to have ever created this volunteers group known as “the YES Volunteers” that help them during different projects and are not necessarily YES alumni. Many other such projects are also conducted under the banner of YES alumni associations all around the world. These activities are seen as a reflection of the passion for community service that students are exposed to over the course of their year abroad.
- Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange
- Future Leaders Exchange
- National Security Language Initiative
- Near East and South Asia Undergraduate Exchange Program
- Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
- YES Programs Official Programs site
- YES Abroad Official Program site
- Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program U.S. State Department Page
- Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad Program U.S. State Department Page