Ellsworth student looks ahead to her junior year in Indonesia

Ellsworth County I-R

Mena Blanding was at a music festival in Salina when she received the news in an e-mail — she was a finalist for a national scholarship that will take her to Indonesia for her junior year in high school.

“It was crazy,” she said. “I was so excited. This is something I’ve wanted to do for such a long time.”

Mena will receive a full scholarship through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad program. YES was organized by Congress in part as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Lawmakers wanted to address public diplomacy efforts that had been neglected for years in many countries around the world, according to the program website. Participants, who serve as “youth ambassadors” of the United States, attend high school while living with a host family in select countries with significant Muslim populations.

“I’m really excited to experience that,” Mena said about the exposure to a different religion and culture.


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