May 2023: Mariam from Pakistan
Exchange student from Pakistan presents culture in U.S. school library

A true grassroots diplomat in Utah

PAX - Program of Academic Exchange is honored to nominate Mariam, a YES exchange student from Pakistan, and Farr West, Utah to be the May YES Student of the Month.

Mariam has gone above and beyond to share her culture, country, and religion with everyone she encounters. She simply enjoys showcasing her country while simultaneously embracing American culture. Mariam reminds us that as an exchange student, you are assigned the huge responsibility of being a youth ambassador of your country. She takes this responsibility very seriously (and with pride) and believes good behavior and a positive attitude are important to the role. Mariam says, “Be the image and the memory through which people see and remember your culture.”

During International Education Week (IEW), Mariam did a fantastic job. She delivered 10 presentations about Pakistan, educating more than 300 people about her religion, customs, and traditions. Those presentations included classmates, her host family’s church and other exchange students and host families in addition to a large event she advertised throughout the school and hosted in the library. She proudly wore the traditional salwar kameez with cultural jewelry known as matha patti. Mariam patiently answered questions and cleared confusion about her religion and country.

Mariam reminds us that as an exchange student, you are assigned the huge responsibility of being a youth ambassador of your country.

Mariam excels academically. She maintains a 4.0 while also earning awards such as PAX’s overall IEW contest winner, Fremont High School’s Student of the Month, first prize at the district-level STEM fair, MESA award at the district-level science fair, and first place in the oratory category at the Portia-Douglas Speech and Debate Tournament. Not only was she chosen to attend the Civic Education Week (CEW) conference in Washington D.C., but she was also selected as a CEW social media specialist.

Mariam has won the hearts of her host family from day one. She has joyously educated her host family about her culture and religion (Islam)—from simply sharing stories and information to cooking her favorite dishes from home like biryani, ras malai, kheer, naan with Pakistani curry, and Kashmiri chai. They love to hear her stories and learn about her culture. She dedicates a portion of her day to spending time with her host family as well as contributing to daily chores, including walking and feeding the family dogs, loading the dishwasher, and organizing the household recycling into the proper containers. Mariam is continuously appreciative of whatever's around her.

Mariam genuinely enjoys serving the community and has 104 volunteer hours. Some examples include cleaning up local highways, providing math tutoring for other students, sorting books in the library, making puppets for children at a daycare, helping neighbors with chores, and serving those in need at a local church. Through volunteering, Mariam has learned that there are countless ways in which to serve your community, and she is grateful for the peace and joy volunteering bring her.

While providing information for this nomination, her Community Coordinator remarked, “Mariam has dedicated herself to be 'all in' no matter what the situation is. She is striving to make this the best experience of her life.” It is this devotion to cultural exchange that makes Mariam a great representative of Pakistan and the ideal example of a YES ambassador!

—The PAX Sponsored Programs team