High School students shadow elected officials at the Hawaii State Capitol

{Click to enlarge} YES program participants with elected officials.  Elected officials from left to right, Sen. Gabbard, Sen. Kahele, Sen. Nishihara, Sen. Riviere,  Sen. Thielen, Sen. Galuteria, Sen. Wakai, and Sen. Inouye.

{Click to enlarge} YES program participants with elected officials. Elected officials from left to right, Sen. Gabbard, Sen. Kahele, Sen. Nishihara, Sen. Shimabukuro, Sen. Riviere, Sen. Galuteria, Sen. Thielen,  Sen. Wakai, and Sen. Inouye.

{Click to enlarge} From left to right, Stacy Garcia, Sen. Shimabukuro , Verencya Oktaviani, Colleen Teramae, and Lopaka Baptiste take a photon the Senate floor

{Click to enlarge} From left to right, Stacy Garcia, Sen. Shimabukuro , Verencya Oktaviani, Colleen Teramae, and Lopaka Baptiste take a photo the Senate floor.

On January 23, 2015, Maui High School student Verencya Oktaviani, age 17 was selected to shadow Senator Shimabukuro for a day at the state capitol.

Verencya was one of many participants with the International Hospitality Center’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Program. The program advances mutual understanding of the United States and countries with significant Muslim populations by bringing students (ages 15-17) to the U.S. to study at a high school and live with a volunteer American host family for up to one year.

International Hospitality Center, founded in 1976, has been honored to receive U.S. Department of State Grantees on the high school level for the past 12 years.

Verencya would like to study astronomy, journalism, or culinary arts.

“As a kid, I was taught that I could be whoever I wanted to be. I used to say I’d teach kindergarten kids, since I love kids. As I grew, I realized how fun it is to make up story plots. That was how I got the idea of being a professional writer. My other passion is astronomy. My plan is to pursue my passion for astronomy in college and then becoming an astronomer – a researcher or a teacher.”

“During my career, I plan on publishing my novels. When I retire I [want to] open a cafe or restaurant that will become a family business. It’s always been my dream to experience an American life. Since Iam in love with culinary, Iwant to know what kind of foods Americans [eat]. I want to learn their culture and introduce my own.”

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