FLEXing Leadership Muscles in the U.S. 1

Can you imagine going to another country for a year as a teenager? Recently, MIUSA hosted high school exchange students with disabilities selected as part of the prestigious Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program and Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) in Eugene, Oregon, USA. Two groups of students, from Eurasia and predominantly Muslim countries, joined us for week-long Preparatory and Leadership Workshops, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, to prepare them to attend U.S. high schools and to address challenges related to accessibility and inclusion during their year abroad.

Here is just a snapshot of their time with MIUSA, which focused on disability rights, leadership and preparation for their year in an American high school as a student with a disability.

Students practice using lockers at a high school.

During a tour of an inclusive public high school, many students were surprised to learn that students with disabilities participate in the full range of educational and extracurricular activities, including physical education, sports, music and drama.

Activities at an outdoors ropes Challenge Course prompted students to examine their own preconceptions about the abilities of individuals with different types of disabilities.

Volunteering in a community garden was a new experience for most students, who felt proud to make a difference. One student shared, “I would like to volunteer in my host town. It’s nice to help others, not for money, but from all your heart.”

In addition to trying out adaptive bicycling, students explored options for recreation that may be available in their host communities such as wheelchair basketball or tennis, adaptive swimming, track and field or other sports.

Through hands-on experiences, students increased their awareness about disability-specific accommodations, services, technology and community resources that people with disabilities in the U.S. use to participate in community life. Pictured here, a Deaf student uses a video-relay calling system.


Best of luck to all these students as they embark upon their year in the U.S.!