The American Government through the International Education and Resource Network (IEARN-Liberia) has qualified eight Liberian students from three counties to depart the country today, Tuesday, for the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program lasting one year.
The students are between the ages of 15 and 16, and are from Montserrado, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties.
Paul Hinshaw, Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Monrovia, who spoke over the weekend at the pre-departure orientation, said the YES program was established by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State along with the U.S. Exchange Community.
Hinshaw said the program is intended to recognize the importance of youth exchange as a key component to building bridges between citizens of the United States and countries around the world, particularly those with significant Muslim populations.
Mr. Hinshaw, who also benefited from the program, described the students as YES Ambassadors for their country, adding that the program is truly a life changing one, because it allows the students to share their cultures with other students while attending various schools in the US based on where they would be hosted.
He called on the beneficiaries to positively represent their country by prioritizing their education for the betterment of Liberia. "You are all leaving to go and represent your country, but you must do so positively to prepare yourself for both the positive and negative challenges ahead of you. You must in the mean time strive to overcome the negative vices to bring pride to Liberia," Mr. Hinshaw urged the students.
Jacob Bandiyo, IEARN-Liberia program officer, said since the YES Program was established in 2010, 40 students from 10 of Liberia's 15 counties have benefited so far.
Bandiyo said the selection process was tedious because the students went through several processes including writing the Level English Proficiency Test (SLEPT), pre-application, and an interview process at the US Embassy near Monrovia, which qualified them.
"Those who traveled to the US last year have returned with great impressions as this program prioritizes all Liberians especially the physically challenged students," he said.
YES alumnus coordinator Lawrence Fahnbulleh said that the eight students are to live with host families since they will go in separate directions, attend high schools and engage in activities that will allow them to learn about the American society, culture and values.
Students who recently returned from the YES Program shared ideas with their colleagues and urged them to prioritize their education, prepare for good or bad, fully represent their country, adapt to the US system and make good friends for successful results.
Parents of the students appreciated the US Government for working with Liberia especially contributing to education and empowering the young people.
They too urged their children to remain law-abiding while representing Liberia by coming out with flying colors.
Musuleng Jackson, a visually impaired student at the Seventh Day Adventist Revelation School, speaking on behalf of her colleagues, thanked the US Government and IEARN-Liberia for giving them the opportunity to participate in the YES program.
"We promise to work tirelessly to ensure that we achieve our aims and objectives," said Jackson.