The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program and the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program are unique cultural exchange programs administered by AYA, that work to improve global understanding between the U.S. and other nations. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, this mission has become so meaningful.
Without host families, though, this mission would be impossible to achieve. Hosts of both YES and FLEX are the vessels through which these two exchange programs positively impact the future of the world.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the YES program evolved in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001 to increase public diplomacy through cultural exchange.
YES attracts remarkable teenagers from predominantly Muslim countries to become part of an American family and to attend high school in the U.S. While in school, students participate in activities that teach them how to better their communities, experiences that they take home with them after their exchange year.
One YES host mom, Jocia from New York, recently reflected on her life changing experience hosting Andi, a YES exchange student from Indonesia. She said, “I have personally witnessed people who had certain beliefs or preconceptions about Muslim people change how they feel after seeing her present herself and her country… [At school] everyone greets her and truly loves her.”
The FLEX program also promotes global understanding, welcoming exchange students from Eurasia to fully experience life in our democratic society.
FLEX especially focuses on transforming these students into effective world leaders with various leadership exercises throughout the school year. Once home, FLEX student ambassadors lead and educate others based on their U.S. experiences.
While these programs increase foreign students’ knowledge of American values, living and bonding with students also opens host families’ eyes to wonderful elements of their culture. YES and FLEX hosts bring us closer by moving us forward – together.
In short, YES and FLEX hosts are incredibly important. Welcoming a young adult from YES or FLEX into your family makes you a part of something much, much larger. By hosting, you will build a bridge of international understanding to create a more accepting and peaceful future for the entire world.