Filipino YES Program scholars complete 1-year academic study in the U.S.
Twenty-eight (28) Filipino scholars of the US-funded Kennedy- Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program arrived Sunday (June 22) from the United States (U.S.) after completing one academic year in high school in the said country.
The 28 students are among the 393 Filipino YES alumni scholars who have been sent to the U.S. since 2004 to be immersed in American culture and learn about their society and values, and to acquire leadership skills through exposure to extra-curricular activities in school and in their host community.
At the same time, the scholars are also given the opportunity to educate Americans about the Philippines, Filipino culture, and Muslim tradition and practices.
This is in line with the YES Program’s objectives of intercultural exchange to create better and mutual awareness and understanding of the American and Muslim community that would eventually lead to a harmonious co-existence between the two cultures.
The program provides for a scholarship to high school students from areas with significant Muslim population— Mindanao, in the case of the Philippines.
The exchange students live with host families from the host city and state, and engage in American education and way of living for a year.
In his speech yesterday (June 23) during the welcome ceremonies to the scholars, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said the program is a venue where the exchange students could broaden their ability to see how other countries work, and experience firsthand American culture and lifestyle.
While the Ambassador admitted that times are different now with the innovations in technology, people remain the same—in hopes, goals, and aspirations.
The intercultural exchange program, he said, “could open more opportunities for peace and economic development, through the students.”
He also said, “the program will continue to go on, for the program seeks to address misunderstandings about U.S. attitudes, and towards Muslim community through the young people.”
He stressed that the youth around the world should understand that “we are in a multi-ethnic society, and for Filipinos, the program aims to open their minds and develop their understanding in a way that is beneficial to the country, particularly in the poorest and conflict-heavy areas.”
During their sharing, the exchange scholars described their one year in the U.S. as a “learning-packed experience, as they were able to understand American lifestyle—which is quite different from those portrayed in movies.”
Nahida H. Ali, Iligan City-based scholar who went to study in Franklin, Indiana, said that her experience was “a wonderful learning experience for it allowed her to meet American people who are very friendly and tolerant of other cultures.” She said that despite her being a Muslim, clad in Hijab, she never felt like an outcast. Her ways were accepted by her school mates and host family.
General Santos City native Datu Yoseff Pendatun who went to Massachusetts said that given another opportunity, he would like to continue his college education in the U.S. His experience taught him a lot especially in leadership skills and understanding foreign culture. When asked about discrimination, he said that there was never a time when he felt he was discriminated because of his race or for any other reason.
The YES Program was established in 2002 in response to the events of September 11, 2001. The program is funded through the U.S Department of State and is implemented in the Philippines by the AFS Intercultural Programs, Philippines. It offers full scholarship to high school students, including students with physical disabilities, in 39 countries.