The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program was established in October, 2002. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, along with the U.S. exchange community, recognized the importance of youth exchange as a key component to building bridges between citizens of the United States and countries around the world, particularly those with significant Muslim populations.
The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA) to provide scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to study for one academic year in the United States. YES students serve as “youth ambassadors” of their home country, promoting mutual understanding by forming lasting relationships with their host families and communities. Participants live with a host family, attend an American high school, acquire leadership skills, and engage in activities to learn about U.S. society and values; they also help educate Americans about their home country and culture.
The program officially launched in North Macedonia in 2009 in hopes to expand communication between the people of the United States and North Macedonia in order to promote mutual understanding and respect. Since then, 146 Macedonian students have completed the YES program and now participate as alumni.
The YES program is administered in partnership with the U.S. Department of State by a consortium of non-profit organizations led by American Councils for International Education. In North Macedonia, American Councils for International Education manages the YES program in partnership with the local U.S. Embassy, Public Affairs Office.