Yes to US exchange programme

Kingsway High School grade 11 pupil, Arlaicia Makawa cannot contain her excitement as she prepares to wing her way to America next week, as part of a youth exchange and study programme. She will finish school on Friday, 27 July to travel to her host family, the Rosen-baums, for 10 months.

The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programme was established in October 2002 when the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), along with the US exchange community, recognised the importance of youth exchange as a key component to building bridges between USA citizens and countries around the world, particularly those with significant Muslim populations.

The programme is funded by the ECA to provide scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to study for an academic year in the US. Participants live with a host family, attend an American high school, acquire leadership skills, and engage in activities to learn about US society and values. They also help educate Americans about their home country and culture and this is what Arlaicia is looking forward to.

“Only 15 of us from SA have been accepted. I’m so excited to go. I have communicated with the Rosenbaums via email and we have exchanged photos and videos. Their children are grown up and at varsity, so I will be the only child in the house but I’ve got a puppy to keep me company.”

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Arlaicia, who lives with her mother in KwaMthiyane, is effectively giving up a year of her schooling. As the US school year starts in September, she will begin grade 11 again and complete it next June, before returning to SA. Kingsway has kindly allowed her to then begin the third term of grade 11 next year. “My mom and dad have been so supportive and strong, for which I am grateful. Even my coaches are behind me.”

Arlaicia is a top short distance runner and specialises in high jump. She made the KZN U16 team last year and this year’s district team. “I want to continue my athletics there. I’m very excited to go and be part of their schooling system.”

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She will live in Gig Harbor in Washington state and attend Peninsula High School. “I can’t wait to meet new people, learn their culture and teach them about South Africa and that we are not so different. I want to build bridges between our cultures.”


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