In Grand Fashion

PAX staff and coordinators recently received a very special treat at the annual PAX National Meeting. Twelve remarkably gifted PAX students shared their talents and cultures with us...in grand fashion! In this issue of PAX Press, we're excited to introduce you to these tremendous teens.

While the photos below will give you a sense for all of the excitement (and allow you to put faces to names), we also thought it would be great if they could introduce themselves to the entire PAX community in a more personal manner. In the "Best, Worst, Next" video section, the teens share (1) their best moment as an exchange student, (2) the most challenging part so far, and (3) what they are still looking forward to or hoping to accomplish.

While a big thanks goes naturally to the students themselves, we would be remiss not to extend our sincerest gratitude to their Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas coordinators and host families. There was no doubt a great deal of taxiing to practices and well-thought-out performance preparation which made the whole thing possible.

Thanks again; enjoy; and look for the remaining "Best, Worst, Next" videos in this program year's remaining issues of the newspaper for exchange students, host families, and schools.

—The PAX Press team

THE PEACOCK

THE PEACOCK

A native of Bali, Dian performed an incredible peacock-evoking dance.

BOLLYWOOD

BOLLYWOOD

Following his feelgood, Bollywood-style number, Nihar (YES, India) joined a number of other light-hearted group dances.

BIG VOICE

BIG VOICE

A standing ovation / The crowd had no choice / Haruka (Japan) stretched her opera voice!

THE WHOLE CREW

THE WHOLE CREW

Kolja (YES, Bosnia and Herzegovina)–fresh off his piano piece–squeezes in (far left) for a group pic.

ULAN ON GUITAR

ULAN ON GUITAR

Ulan (FLEX, Kyrgyzstan) supplied the music for a traditional song together with his compatriot, vocalist extraordinaire Zharkynai.

TALENTED TEEN

TALENTED TEEN

It remains unclear whether the crowd found Zharkynai's (FLEX, Kyrgyzstan) singing or dancing more impressive/charming.

ORIGAMI

ORIGAMI

In addition to an origami workshop, Sae (Japan) treated the audience to some uproariously deadpan, ninja-themed humor.

SOMETHING SPECIAL

SOMETHING SPECIAL

Zulfiya (FLEX, Tajikistan) slowed it down for a regional dance with an understated magic the audience may never again witness.

THAI SMILE

THAI SMILE

Natnicha (YES, Thailand) never needed any pantomiming reminders to smile on stage.

MAGIC MAN

MAGIC MAN

Explaining the significance of Sensō-ji Temple in Tokyo, Shuhei (Japan) would later enthrall groups with his magic.

GROUP NUMBER

GROUP NUMBER

Sara (center) led peers in a mesmerizing number inspired by her native Jordan.

THANKS!

THANKS!

The group takes a much-deserved timeout/photo op with Bradley Smith, PAX president and CEO.

 
"Best, Worst, Next"

What's it like to be a PAX exchange student? While you may hear similar themes, every experience really is unique. PAX Press recently caught up with twelve PAXers from homelands as different as Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Bali, and Bosnia to hear (1) their best moment as an exchange student, (2) the most challenging part so far, and (3) what they're still looking forward to or hoping to accomplish. It's part of a series we're calling "Best, Worst, Next," and like many PAX Press video interviews, it tries to bring us a bit closer to understanding what it's really like to be a PAX exchange student.

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My Civic Education Workshop Story

Out of 803 YES students, 500 applied, and 100 were chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. Making new friends, meeting prominent people, digging into the deepest history of America, touring the wonderful city of Washington D.C...100 aspiring leaders received this opportunity.

Six days filled with walking, talking, and new ideas, the Civic Education Workshop (CEW) definitely convinced us to be the best version of ourselves, not just for us but for others as well. We are already ambassadors, but drive and determination are not enough. CEW is a great source of ideas and networks to be able to accomplish goals which are part of the mission of the YES program.

I was an alternate for the workshop, but with God’s grace, after two days, I was notified that I was a finalist! Not a coincidence but indeed destiny. I wasn’t just a participant; I was given the privilege of being one of the Social Media Specialists who covered the workshop on social media sites. I met one of the smartest people I have ever known. I visited places that I will only visit once in my life. It has been an honor to represent my country, host state, host community, school, heritage, program, and myself to people who truly listen and help fulfill our duty as citizens of the world.

People ask me about the best part of my trip. Well, the people I met and whom I will forever cherish were the best part of it, as was walking in museums, on the mall, and in the hotel wearing my national costume. Also, Capitol Hill and meeting members of the House of Representatives and the Senate was truly amazing.

—Amir (YES, Philippines), hosted by the McGinnis family (OH)

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Amir poses in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The Civic Education Workshop (CEW) is an annual, one-week program held in Washington, D.C. It is funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program provides an opportunity for qualifying FLEX and YES 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 and so is hearing how it went from two PAXers: one FLEX and one YES.

 
Thank YOU

Being part of the Sponsored Programs team (FLEX and YES) has given me the privilege to come across some wonderful stories which highlight the experiences of our FLEX and YES students while living in the U.S. during their exchange year. It is inspiring to witness the great support and love that our students receive from their local communities, schools, and host families, and the impact that these experiences have in changing their lives forever. I am very proud to be a part of both the YES and FLEX communities and the PAX family.

I wanted to take a moment to share a big "thank you" with the entire “PAX village” which keeps impressing me with its commitment, generosity, and love for the YES and FLEX programs and students. In this article, I would specifically like to share how impressed I was recently with a wonderful story, whose protagonist is our visually impaired FLEX student from Turkmenistan, Agayusup ("Usup"). This is a long, beautiful story of love, care, and support to make a young man feel physically equal to his peers. I will try, however, to summarize it in one quote that says it all: "I will never forget watching Usup’s reaction at the Ocular Prosthetics clinic when the doctor gave him a mirror to see his new eye. What a miracle!"

This article is not only about Usup, who is a great student and deserves the best. This article is about YOU! It is about YOU, Usup’s community coordinator Rebekah, who worked so hard over the last eight months to make his dream come true. It is about YOU, the cluster of PAX exchange students placed in Bluffton, Indiana and its neighboring communities who made Usup’s candy fundraising campaign a great success. It is about YOU, the local community in Bluffton and Usup’s lovely host family who opened both their home and hearts to him. It is about YOU, everyone that participated in his online fundraising campaign. YOU might be from Indiana, Utah, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Port Chester (NY)—the list would be very long if I mention all of YOU that were part of this amazing story. I want you to know that YOU are the ones who deserve our deepest gratitude for what you do for students like Usup, and for all our FLEX and YES students. YOU are my heroes.

Thank YOU!

—Brikena Samara, PAX Sponsored Programs Director

PAX Press Usups party 575

Their efforts having paid off and the procedure having been a success, the local PAX community (including Usup and the other students pictured) gathered to celebrate the occasion.