The California Central Coast Area Team of AFS Intercultural Programs is pleased to share that Valencia High School junior and AFS exchange student from South Africa Michelle Hadebe participated in the Civic Education Workshop held March 24-29 in Washington, D.C., for select exchange students who are in the United States on a U.S. State Department scholarship program. Hadebe’s AFS exchange year in Santa Clarita is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) merit-based scholarship program. She is hosted by the Tuncan family in Valencia.

The Civic Education Workshop is an annual, one-week program held in Washington, D.C., and funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. According to the Bureau’s website, “The program provides an opportunity for qualifying [scholarship program] students to gain a better understanding of some of the key concepts and values integral to U.S. society and culture. Participants learn firsthand about the U.S. federal system of government and other important concepts through seminar discussions, briefings, and meetings on Capitol Hill. Being selected is a distinct honor.” Workshop students also learn leadership skills, as it is expected that, upon return to their home countries, U.S. Department of State scholarship students will expand on and practice what they learned about volunteerism, community service, and citizen responsibility during their exchange year.

“My greatest lesson from the Civic Education Workshop,” wrote Hadebe, “is that a leader is not always the one who speaks, and the one who listens is not always a follower. Good leadership requires working with people, not on top of them.”
The U.S. Department of State’s YES scholarship program originated after the events of September 11, 2001, to build bridges between citizens of the United States and countries around the world, particularly those with large Muslim populations. The Department sponsors two other scholarship programs – the Congress-Bundestag program to strengthen ties between the United States and Germany and the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program for students from 21 countries in Eurasia.

The California Central Coast Area Team of AFS includes the Santa Clarita Valley as well as Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, and San Luis Obispo County. The team currently is seeking local families who are interested in hosting an exchange student for an academic semester or year, beginning in August 2019. Currently, Santa Clarita is home to five AFS students from Spain, Norway, Germany, Gaza (YES scholarship), and South Africa (YES scholarship). Interested families can call AFS staff at 805-750-1824.

AFS-USA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in New York City. It has been a leader in international education for more than 70 years.

Photo: AFS exchange student and U.S. State Department scholarship recipient from South Africa Michelle Hadebe at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. as part of Civic Education Week, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. (Photo courtesy Michelle Hadebe.)