By Heather Collins
Zionsville Community High School has received a plaque of appreciation from the U.S. Dept. of State and the Council on International Education Exchange for hosting three students through the YES grant program during the 2016-17 school year.
The exchange students, from Kosovo and Liberia, lived with a local host family during the year. The YES program offers a competitive grant to students from countries with a significant Muslim population.
“The focus of these programs is to encourage diplomacy for future generations in hope of fostering a more peaceful world,” said Jan Ellis, local coordinator for the Council on International Education Exchange. “I think it is so valuable for our local students to meet teenagers from other cultures to see how similar they may be and to embrace their differences in a positive way. We have so much to gain from this mutual understanding. Our students generally return to their home countries with a very positive impression of the USA.”
Diella Ymeraga, 17, a Kosovo exchange student, described ZCHS as a good and open-minded community.
“The program was a life-changing experience for me, because it gave me a different perspective on everything. It taught me a lot about American culture and values, and it made it possible for me to experience fully a new culture without feeling like I am abandoning the values of my culture,” Ymeraga said. “That’s the reason behind how this year I became more open minded and comfortable sharing my culture with people from a different culture.”
Ymeraga said she enjoyed apple pie, brownies and mac n’ cheese during her stay in America. During International Education Week, Ymeraga did a presentation on her country and brought baklava, a traditional holiday dessert, and burke me djath, a cheese pie.
Ymeraga said it was important to her to present ZCHS with a plaque of appreciation to show her respect for the high school making this program possible for students around the world and for helping to garner cultural understanding for all students.
For more, visit ciee.org/highschool.