My friend Nadeem lives there!

Can you imagine traveling half-way around the world to a completely different climate, to live with a new family, speak a new language, and start a new school for a year… all at 16?

Earlier this year, we headed to the small town of Whitefish, Montana to tell the story of Nadeem who did just that.  Originally from Pakistan, Nadeem applied and was accepted to the extremely competitive YES program, which brought him to Whitefish for his senior year of high school.  He was gracious enough to let us follow him for a week to school, study sessions, barbecues and on a family trip.  He gave incredible talks to his history class, explaining what life was like in Pakistan, what kind of food he eats at home, what his friends do for fun.  Having spent a few days at Whitefish High, I can attest to how engaged and interested his classmates were when he spoke and how inspired they were by the leap of faith he took to come here.

It was astounding to see how, in a town without much exposure to people who look like Nadeem, he was known (and loved!) by everyone he met.  We’ve seen  firsthand that it takes a LOT of effort, organization and of course money to facilitate exchange programs like this… but we have also learned how essential these exchanges are to understanding the world.  Isn’t it awesome that everyone in Whitefish can now point to Pakistan on a map and say “my friend Nadeem lives there!”  We think so.


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