Academic Year in America students volunteer at annual Wreaths Across America event in Arlington National Cemetery
Stamford, Conn., December 20, 2016 – A group of high school exchange students from Academic Year in America (AYA) volunteered at the annual Wreaths Across America event on Saturday, December 17 in Arlington National Cemetery.
The volunteers from AYA, a non-profit high school exchange organization since 1981, helped lay wreaths on the graves of fallen U.S. veterans at the cemetery, honoring those that served while learning about freedom.
Each December on National Wreaths Across America Day, Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and more than 1,100 locations worldwide.
"This activity required us to put wreaths on the graves of veterans and people in the military,” shared participating AYA student Dure N. from Pakistan. “It was a way of showing the respect and honor we feel for the people who sacrificed their life so that others could live theirs. It made me see the unity and nationalism prevailing in this country. Then, we saw the Washington Monument, Pentagon and the White House. Through the trip, I learned a lot about American history and values, and I was glad I was given this opportunity."
AYA students in attendance enjoyed a day of volunteer service and sightseeing, gaining new perspective and appreciation for American values and respect for the sacrifices made in support of freedom. Through their participation, the young internationals exemplify the mission of Academic Year in America in action. AYA students are international students living with American families, attending high school in the United States for a semester or academic year.
Renata G. from Latvia reflected on the experience, "This day will stay in my mind for a long time. With our first steps in the cemetery, it felt like we stepped in a different world. The Tomb of Unknown Soldiers surprised me with its majesty, and I was amazed by guards that work there and are willing to honor these people no matter what happens. I remember how we found the graves of immigrants, and I was surprised in a good way that they are honored the same way as Americans. I had a chance again to see how tolerant Americans are toward different religions as it was seen on gravestones. This place is one big monument for all people who have fought for this country, and it stands beautifully for its purpose."
The volunteers for this special event were organized by Local Coordinators (LCs) from Virginia, Maryland and Ohio. AYA LC’s provide program support to students within their host community. LCs organize community service and volunteer events for AYA students across the country to interact with Americans, experience cultural activities and learn about life in the United States.
Wreaths Across America is a non-profit organization with the mission to: Remember, Honor, and Teach. Through community engagement and this annual event, the mission is carried out to remember fallen U.S. veterans, honor those who serve and teach children the value of freedom.
# # #
Celebrating their 35th anniversary in 2017, Academic Year in America is a not-for-profit organization designated by the U.S. Department of State to offer J-1 cultural exchange visas to international students. AYA is sponsored by the American Institute For Foreign Study Foundation, which was founded with the assistance of the late Robert F. Kennedy. AYA has helped more than 30,000 students and host families participate in high school exchange to learn about other cultures and languages and build lifelong friendships.
This program opened my eyes to a culture and society I knew very little about. I made great friends and had a fabulous time during the process. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.Jessica Cobb, Western Michigan University
I chose this program because of everything it offered. The fact that everything was included made the experience much less stressful. The people working for the program definitely ensured we got the most out of our time here. The AIFS cultural activities and excursions were excellent. It was a wonderful life experience I will have with me forever.Stephanie Bingham, Oklahoma State University
Growing up with an au pair made me much more aware that there were cultures and societies other than mine. This had a significant impact on me specifically because I was exposed to foreign cultures at such a young age.Ryan Comerford, age 21