By Divya Putty
The Youth Ambassador Student Exchange (YASE) is a global learning program that provides students the opportunity to promote mutual understanding for various world cultures and acquire leadership skills. Every year, YASE pairs five Israeli cities with five United States’ cities allowing students to experience the customs and society of their corresponding city.
“The overarching theme of the program is cultural diversity and democracy. Students learn about that through the world as their classroom versus reading about it in a book. Students talk about democracy, civic responsibility, and differences in government. They discuss the issues of cultural diversity and how important diversity is in democracy,” community outreach coordinator, Maria Koziatek said
After applying for the program, eight students from Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) were chosen and paired with eight students from Ra’anana. Israeli students spent a week living with their American families and attending the students’ classes at GHCHS.
“This past week has been amazing. My exchange student Noa is awesome. She is funny and polite, as are the other exchange students. We loved showing them around LA. Their favorite place to go is Starbucks and we also went to Universal Studios,” Junior Jenna Huetter said.
After spending a week living with American host families, all 16 students left for Washington D.C. and New York. In Washington D.C., the exchange students convened to meet people with various ethnic backgrounds, to further expose them to numerous world cultures and lifestyles. They engaged in activities like presentations and discussions on a gender equality video, tours of the Capitol Building, and walks to the White House.
Throughout their remaining time in Washington D.C. and New York, the 16 students from GHCHS and Ra’anana visited several tourist areas and historical landmarks, such as Times Square and the American History Museum, acquiring a perspective of the United States that books and movies simply cannot provide.
After their time in the United States, students traveled to Israel. The students will also visit two prominent cities in Israel, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, traveling to important cultural landmarks like the Dead Sea and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. They will also have a Hebrew Class during their stay. American students will live with their paired host families in Ra’anana, gaining an understanding of the life of an Israeli.
“I’m not too sure what I’m looking forward to the most. I want to say everything, but I think it’s a tie between eating in Times Square and going to Jerusalem,” Huetter said.
After the month long program, students will be able to educate others about the cultures and lifestyles they engaged in and observed as Youth Ambassadors.
YASE occurs annually and is open to all incoming sophomores and juniors. It is an opportunity for students to understand global issues and grasp the diversity of the world through traveling.