December 2019, Vol. XXV, No. 4

Article Index


6) Students of the Month

Each month, PAX's Sponsored Programs Department identifies one extraordinary Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program student respectively. These standout students become PAX's official nominations for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' "Student of the Month" award.

FLEX December Nominee

Katya Ukraine OH 425x425

It is with great enthusiasm that we nominate Kateryna from Ukraine, studying in North Canton, OH to be FLEX Student of the Month for December 2019. Kateryna (known as Katya) has approached her exchange year with a lively energy. Upon arrival to the United States, Katya was greeted at the airport by her community coordinator and her host family, whom she ran up to and embraced immediately. Her coordinator said, “…you could see the joy, excitement, and relief on her face!”

She has maintained that same enthusiasm and affection throughout her exchange experience. Katya has developed a strong bond with her host family. Her host mother says, “Katya has been a wonderful addition to our home and family.” Katya and her host mom frequently cook dinners together, sharing both American and Ukrainian recipes. Katya thoroughly enjoys spending time with her host family. She says, “I am blessed with the best host family in the world.”

Katya has attended two volunteer activities with her host family. In September, Katya and her host mom volunteered to help an elderly member of their community repaint the outside of their house; in November Katya and her host family spent an afternoon packaging boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Together, they intend to continue volunteering throughout the holiday season at food kitchens in their community.

At school, Katya’s guidance counselor has said that she is independent, self-sufficient, inquisitive, and a great addition to her high school. Katya is doing very well in her classes. She has even joined student government and the Social Justice Club. She is preparing to join the track team in the spring.

Katya’s host mom also says that she jumps at the opportunity to share about her culture and about Ukraine. Katya says that at school she loves to have discussions about culture in general and the similarities and differences between the United States and Ukraine.

Katya has been a wonderful representative of PAX’s mission of increasing mutual respect and fostering an appreciation of our differences and similarities. Katya is a fantastic ambassador of Ukraine, the FLEX program, and PAX. We are proud to nominate Katya for FLEX Student of the Month, December 2019.

—The PAX Sponsored Team

YES December Nominee

Ilham Kenya IN 425x425

PAX is excited to nominate Ilham, an exchange student from Kenya, studying in Brookville, IN, to be December’s YES Student of the Month. Ilham’s host mother is thrilled to have Ilham as part of her family. On Tuesday evenings, Ilham and her host mom have “culture day”, which was Ilham’s idea. They sit and chat about cultural differences between Kenya and the United States. Specifically, they like to discuss the similarities and differences between their religions—Christianity and Islam.

Ilham shows a lot of pride in her home country, Kenya, and is excited to be able to share her culture with others while learning more about the culture in the U.S. Ilham’s host mom says that Ilham is “a prime example” of a student making the most of their exchange year. She says that Ilham is upbeat and always open to new ideas and experiences, despite being quiet shy in the beginning—a challenge she is determined to overcome while in the United States.

Ilham wears a hijab, which is a unique feature among her classmates at Franklin County High School. This has led to Ilham answering many questions about her culture and faith, which she is happy to discuss and explain to her peers. In school, Ilham is taking a full course load and is doing exceptionally well. Her courses include Geometry, Digital Applications, Spanish, and U.S. History. She is even taking Biology II for college credit! Her teachers report that Ilham is always a pleasure to have in class—always gracious and smiling.

Already, Ilham has joined FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) club and Spanish club to get more involved in her school community. So far, Ilham has also completed 25 hours of volunteer service. Her service hours include working a bingo booth for the Cedar Grove Fire Department Festival and helping clean the yard of senior citizens in her community on the United Way “Day of Caring.” Ilham’s host mom says, “She is…bridging the gap between small town life and Kenyan life…She is just an amazing kid, and I couldn’t be more proud!”

Ilham is a model exchange student and a spectacular ambassador of Kenya, the YES program, and PAX. It is our pleasure to nominate Ilham for YES Student of the Month, December 2019.

—The PAX Sponsored Team