Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Program

The U.S. Department of State’s (USDOS) YES program was established by Congress in October 2002 in response to the events of September 11, 2001. YES provides scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend up to one academic year in the United States.

Students live with host families, attend high school, engage in activities to learn about American society and values, acquire leadership skills, and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures. The YES program is sponsored by the USDOS' Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with funding provided by the U.S. Congress and is administered by PAX.

  • International high school student moderating a radio program about foreign exchange in Washington

    From the West Bank to Washington State: Dima is on the air for her regular Foreign Exchange program at North Beach High.

  • International high school student from Pakistan volunteering for his American community during Global Youth Service Day

    Pakistani and honorary Virginian Danish pitches in for Global Youth Service Day.

  • YES exchange student with his principal after a presentation about his home country during International Education Week

    Pictured with Principal Andersson of his Ohio high school, Ali (Pakistan) gave 26 presentations during International Education Week.

  • PAX exchange student from Bangladesh holding international flags with her host sisters and family dog

    There's always something new and fun happening when Marzaan (Bangladesh) and her Arizona host sisters are around.

  • YES alumna from Bangladesh at a Young Leaders Program conference

    YES Alumna Ifreet (Bangladesh) discusses project implementation at a Young Leaders Program.

  • PAX student from Indonesia volunteering as a bell ringer for Salvation Army

    Nabila (Indonesia) enjoys learning about the Christmas spirit and an iconic charitable campaign.

  • Exchange students from Mozambique, Suriname, Indonesia, and Thailand in front of a homecoming sign with their American friend

    Celebrating homecoming in Indiana are Cheraine (Suriname), Dalva (Mozambique), Afifah (Indonesia), Bam (Thailand), and friend Jalyne.

  • Exchange student’s friend in Bulgaria takes part in a video chat for a virtual exchange project with American teens

    Rada's classmate back in Bulgaria (Lilyana) features in a "virtual exchange" video chat with her Wisconsin school. 

  • Foreign exchange student in Oregon shares his culture through traditional Turkish dance

    Mevlut—who spent his exchange year in Oregon—shares his culture through traditional Turkish dance.

  • PAX international student from Bangladesh skiing with his Alaskan host family and their dog

    Even the family dog joined in to help Saadman (Bangladesh) learn about Alaskan leisure-time activities.

  • PAX international exchange student from Indonesia hugging her new school friend in North Carolina

    Ayeshadira (Indonesia) is all smiles with her new school friend in Charlotte, North Carolina.

  • Indian exchange student meeting the senator of his host state Vermont during the Civic Education Workshop

    During the Civic Education Workshop, Haziq (India) met Senator Leahy of his host state Vermont.

A Prestigious Scholarship

YES students undergo a rigorous merit-based selection process. Academic performance, English language competence, and personal qualities are all important factors. On average, one in 40 applicants is selected.

While in the United States, YES students make presentations about their home countries and participate in PAX coordinator-designed enhancement activities. These special learning opportunities focus on American culture and diversity; government and democracy; entrepreneurship and free market economy; and leadership.

In addition, these youth ambassadors volunteer in the community and are encouraged to apply for national workshops.

American Host Families

At home, YES students are excited to share in the daily life of a real American family. Host families, in turn, find that everyday activities take on new meaning when shared with a young person eager to discover their way of life.

While some host families have teenagers or young children, others are empty nesters, single parents, or don’t have children of their own. The most important thing is that they are prepared to share their lives with a YES student as if this child were their own son or daughter—providing a bed, a quiet place to study, and a seat at the dining table.

Through the experience, families are able to put an irreplaceable laugh, smile, and spirit to a once faraway land, developing cherished, lifelong bonds and memories—forged at dinner tables, in rec rooms, and on back porches.

Medallion Member Schools

High schools that enroll YES students set themselves apart. Not only do they demonstrate a commitment to academic and cultural enrichment through international exchange, they also help realize U.S. foreign policy goals by fostering communication with the youth of key countries. 

As such, they are invited by the U.S. Department of State to become Medallion Member Schools—a distinction recognized by pairing the official medallion with their school name on banners, newsletters, websites, clothing, and more.

And YES students are quick to give back to the school communities that welcome them. In fact, every YES student makes at least one cultural presentation and completes at least 20 hours of community service. Many also organize virtual exchanges—interesting and inspiring ways of using technology to connect their U.S. classes with classes back home.



Inquiry Form for American Families & High Schools

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YES Countries

Albania // Bahrain // Bangladesh // Bosnia and Herzegovina // Bulgaria // Cameroon // Egypt // Gaza // Ghana // India // Indonesia // Israel (Arab Communities) // Jordan // Kenya // Kosovo // Kuwait // Lebanon // Liberia // Libya // Malaysia // Mali // Morocco // Mozambique // Nigeria // North Macedonia // Pakistan // Philippines // Saudi Arabia // Senegal // Sierra Leone // South Africa // Suriname // Tanzania // Thailand // Tunisia // Turkey // West Bank