Group photo of Gaza students who will study at American high schools for one year as part of the YES program. (Photo courtesy of the US consulate.)
JERUSALEM, August 17, 2017 (WAFA) – Eleven Palestinian students from Gaza arrived on Tuesday in the United States and three more will be arriving in the coming days to start a year of study at American high schools under the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES), according to a US consulate press release.
“The YES program aims to promote cross-cultural understanding to break down cultural barriers, misperceptions, and stereotypes between Palestinians and Americans,” said the press release.
Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump‘s Special Representative for International Negotiations, was personally involved to ensure that the students were able to depart on time to participate in and benefit from the program, said the statement.
Departure of Gazans is usually an ordeal with the Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007 and constant closure of the Rafah border with Egypt. Gazans seeking to leave the strip through Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing with Israel have to get an Israeli permit, which is rarely granted except in special cases.
The Gaza students are among the approximately 300 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza that the United States government supports every year on professional and student exchange programs.
The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program for high school students was established by Congress in October, 2002. The program is funded through the US Department of State to provide scholarships for high school students from 39 countries in the Middle East, Africa, South/Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and South America to spend up to one academic year in the United States.
Students live with host families, attend U.S. high schools, and participate in special enrichment activities that include community service, youth leadership training, a civics education program, and acquire leadership skills.