In November of 2008 the Ayusa headquarters office was overflowing with wonderful submissions for this year's International Education Week contest. The Ayusa students who participated in this exciting event sponsored by the Department of State, sent in applications that proved Ayusa students take our mission of fostering cultural exchange to heart. From these submissions our selection committee was able to choose three contestants who really stood out from the crowd. Thank you to everyone who submitted applications for your hard work, dedication, and creativity!
1st Prize: Maad Sharaf from Yemen
2nd Prize: Mariam Kevlishvili from Georgia
3rd prize: Sahar Zahid from Pakistan
First place winner: Maad Sharaf from Yemen
1st Prize: Maad Sharaf is from Yemen and is living with the Katz Family in Wisconsin. Maad's submission stood out amongst the others and it was clear that he was truly dedicated to the aims of International Education Week. He made more than a dozen presentations to hundreds of people—from kindergarteners to senior citizens. We were impressed that before creating his presentation, Maad took great initiative and interviewed people in his community to find out what they most wanted to learn about Yemen and Islam, then tailored his presentation to address those topics. Below is a wonderful quote from his host mother:
"Maad is willing to discuss challenging subjects like religion, gender roles, sex and terrorism with kindness and grace. People love to ask him questions. Maad is a true diplomat. He is skillfully bridging the HUGE cultural divide between America and Yemen with humor, honesty and complete respectfulness for both cultures. He is not just doing this during his presentations, but every day that he lives in Wisconsin. He is very well known and well liked in his school and community. It is wonderful that so many of us will, when we hear the words Arab or Yemen or Muslim, picture this remarkable young man."
Maad will be receiving a trip to San Francisco as his prize!
Second place winner: Mariam Kevlishvili from Georgia
2nd Prize: Mariam Kevlishvili is from Georgia and is placed in Texas with the Martinez Family in San Antonio, Texas. Mariam presented to over 350 people at her school during the week. Her presentations were an inspiration to her classmates and teachers—many of them expressed interest in visiting Georgia after learning more about the unique culture and customs. Mariam also translated short stories for a literacy club, was featured in her high school newspaper and took an active role in developing a TV show which was aired on San Antonio public television. This show was focused on educating people about Georgian culture, history and political situation through a panel format with younger students. Everyone at Ayusa was impressed by her creative approach to International Education Week and feel that she impacted many people in her community. Mariam will receive an iPod Nano as her prize!
Third place winner: Sahar Zahid from Pakistan
3rd Prize: Shar Zahid is from Pakistan and currently resides with the Gall Family in Oregon. Sahar's dedication to her presentation amazed the selection committee—she stayed up many nights working on her presentation. One of her goals was to inform and educate her audience on terrorism that affects people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. To stay up-to-date, Sahar made sure to read the newspaper daily on these issues. She also had a huge impact on her classmates when she explained the importance education holds for teenagers, especially girls, in Pakistan. We were extremely impressed with her message! Sahar will be receiving an iPod Shuffle as her prize.
We would also like to recognize two outstanding applicants whose commitment to International Education Week is deserving of an honorable mention!
Jom Jam Purachakueng from Thailand
Giorgi Kupatadze from Georgia
Thank you again to all the contestants who worked so hard to educate the American people about your culture, lifestyle, and history!