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Update: IRIS’s role in newly restructured YES Program

November 19, 2010

Christelle Enega is IRIS’s YES Program Coordinator. In this post, she explains the changes to the (newly titled) Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program and outlines IRIS’s role in the consortium that will administer the program.

Early this November, Del and I participated in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study training conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

As most of you may already know, IRIS didn’t receive funding for the YES Program for the 2010-2011 academic year. We were very pleased when we were notified a few months ago that we would get funding to recruit Youth Exchange and Study students in Nigeria and Tanzania for the 2011-2012 program.

Changes to the structure of the program

You may have noticed that the grant name has changed from “Youth Exchange and Study Program” to “Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program.”

Along with the change in the name are other significant changes that affect the way the grant will be executed from now on. Since the inception of the YES Program, various organizations all over the country applied directly for funding to the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. The organizations that received funding would then recruit and place their students – as was the case with IRIS – or work with placement organizations all over the country that would place the students. This is no longer how the grant will be executed.

In an effort to build a stronger YES family and an even stronger YES Program, the State Department saw it fit to have all the organizations working with YES to form a consortium. The organizations in the consortium will work together, sharing their experiences with the YES Program in order to ensure that we recruit the best students and that the selected participants have a good program once in the U.S. and when they return.

Another change deals with placement. While IRIS has not yet been offered the opportunity to place students for the 2011-2012 school year, we are still hopeful that we will receive that chance. If we do, the students coming to Iowa would be from many countries, not just Nigeria and Tanzania (as has been the case in the past). The State Department will have a list of all finalists chosen to participate in the program and will then assign students to placing organizations. This means that IRIS could potentially be placing students from any of the participating YES countries.

Initially, I was very apprehensive of these changes. Although IRIS has worked with the YES Program since its inception in 2002 and that we are very confident that we have done an outstanding job of promoting the program’s mission both in the U.S. and in Nigeria and Tanzania, we felt it would be very challenging to adjust to all these changes. That was before we started talking to our YES partners and before the training conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

Dr. Saidu Yakubu, Christelle, Miss Grace Foya and Del in Istanbul, Turkey

Conference brings together YES partners from 40 countries

The conference was very productive and educational! It was great to see some of the people that work on the YES Program and to share our experience executing the program with each other.

Our colleagues from Nigeria, Dr. Saidu Yakubu, and from Tanzania, Madam Grace Foya, were also in attendance.

After discussing how many years person in attendance had worked on the program, we determined that we had a minimum cumulative of at least 150 years of experience. That amount of experience can only be beneficial to us, especially if it is well-utilized.

We discussed moving toward standardizing the selection process in order to make sure that all the students were selected on the same criteria. This will be crucial for the success of the program, especially now that each organization will not be necessarily placing the students they recruit.

As you can imagine, communication was a topic that was extensively discussed at the meeting. With all these changes, the program’s success is contingent on how well we communicate with each other. We have set in place several strategies that will facilitate better communication between consortium members and placement organizations.

After the two days of intensive training (8am-6pm) – and at the same time, struggling with the 7-hour time change – I felt very optimistic about these changes.

I strongly believe in the goal of the YES Program: “bridging the gap between citizens of the U.S. and countries around the world, particularly those with significant Muslim populations.” I have witnessed its effects on students, host families and communities in various occasions, and I trust that all these organizations working together will lead to the prosperity of the program.

Although I don’t have experience placing students from other YES countries, I am very excited about these new challenges and about the opportunity to work with people from different cultures. If anything, this will be a great learning experience for me and my colleagues.

I am known in the office for being the ultimate pessimist, so for those of you that are still apprehensive about these changes, please rest-assured that all the organizations that will be working on YES have the best interest of the students in mind and we will do everything in our power to make sure that the students and host families have a great experience.

Thank you for your unconditional support, especially last year when we didn’t get the grant. I enjoyed receiving emails from you expressing concern about the future of the program in Nigeria and Tanzania. It is encouraging to know that Iowans care about this program, and myself and the entire IRIS staff will do all in our power to make sure that Nigerian and Tanzanian students continue benefitting from this opportunity.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. RAHAB BALA permalink
    November 23, 2010 9:46 AM

    Good job YES

  2. Mangey permalink
    November 23, 2010 5:05 PM

    Indelible is unforgettable , keep it up.

  3. Tornyie permalink
    November 24, 2010 6:41 AM

    Christelle,
    Thats a positive development, and very useful for host family like me to be aware of what is going on in the program. As you clearly said, there will be significant change in programs given the differences in backgrounds of students.
    Looking forward to see the changes unfolding.

  4. Christelle permalink
    November 29, 2010 7:04 PM

    Thanks Tornye! We will keep you posted as everything unfolds. Thanks for all your support.

  5. Mihir permalink
    November 30, 2010 12:27 AM

    How do i get involved with this program? It sounds very interesting!

    • iriscenter permalink
      November 30, 2010 4:58 PM

      Mihir- Thanks for your interest. I’d love to tell you more about our organization and the YES program. How would you like to get involved?

  6. muaweezeey permalink
    October 2, 2011 6:07 PM

    nice one gal

  7. October 13, 2011 5:55 AM

    I am among the students who passed the kennedy-lugar youth exchange and study program,we were given the results and i passed in the pre-selection on 12th of october…i am eagerly waiting for the final exam and the final selection..i will do my best to get the chance.we sincerely thank the kennedy-lugar youth exchange and study program..from Zerah hashim,Tanzanian student.

    • iriscenter permalink*
      November 3, 2011 2:17 PM

      Best of luck on the final selection competition! You will soon receive info on where and when that competition will occur.

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