As 2016 comes to a close and the crew at IRIS gears up for 2017, we are left to reflect on what the year meant to us, our alumni, our students and the countless others our organization reaches. While it’s hard to narrow it down to just a handful of moments, we have assembled our top 16 moments of 2016. What were your favorites?

1.  Three new babies in the office

Operations Manager, Kim Hope; YES Recruitment and Alumni Coordinator, Christelle Enega; and YES Program Placement Manager, Gina Zoss all welcomed new bundles of joy to the world in 2016.

2. An amazing Art Auction

With the help of events intern Kim Hughes, the Annual Layers of Diversity Art Auction went off without a hitch. This event showcases art from around the world and close to home. The event raised nearly $2,500 and gained IRIS notoriety within the community.

3. A successful second annual International Peace Walk

Again arranged by Kim Hughes, the International Peace Walk at Ada Hayden Park brought in almost $3,000. The event also spread a message of diversity and cultural awareness to the Ames community with informational booths and activities.


4. The creation of the Nigerian Birthing Project in conjunction with local Rotary Clubs

With the assistance of local Rotary Clubs, IRIS Executive Director Del Christensen created the Nigerian Birthing Project. This project taught birthing assistance proper techniques and procedures during birth. In a country where death rates for births are extremely high, this program has the potential to save thousands of lives.

5. Mahmoud steals the show in Meet Me in St. Louis

Mahmoud Majdi, an exchange student from Morocco, had always wanted to try his hand at acting. When he arrived at his high school in Clear Lake, Iowa, he jumped at the chance to try out for the school play Meet Me In St. Louis. To his surprise, he snagged the role of male lead in the play. It has been his best experience in America so far!  

6. Laial takes part in an age old Iowa rivalry

Laial Na’na from Jordan (hosted in Cedar Falls) had a very special experience at her first football game. That could be attributed to the rivalry that surrounded it-Iowa vs. Iowa State. While she didn’t know much about the game or the rivalry, the enthusiasm of everyone in attendance was contagious. Laial said, “It was mind blowing. It will always be one of my favorite memories because we got to experience it as a family.”

7. Ten scholarships awarded to IRIS alumni

2017 marked the first year of the Bob and Judy Anderson multi-year scholarship. This award allowed two IRIS alumni to continue their education for several years. In addition, eight IRIS alumni received single year scholarships. For more information on individual recipients click HERE.

8. Four students participate in World Food Prize

Noor from Pakisan, Rafi from the Phillippines, Houssem from Tunisia and Akshaj from India were all selected to attend this year’s World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa. This is a global conference that selects attendants based on the merit of a paper written on an issue in food scarcity.

9. Students educate over 4,500 people

During 2016’s International Education Week, IRIS students were tasked with presenting on their culture to a group in their community. Whether it was a church group, elementary class or retirement home, our students went above and beyond. All together IRIS students taught more than 4,500 people about their culture and exchange experience.

10. YES alumnae have digital conference with first lady Michelle Obama

First lady Michelle Obama hosted a digital conference for a group of YES alumnae in Tanzania. This taught the women about the importance of educating young girls and allowing them to be free thinkers.

11. Nendi Solomon teaches a new trade

As one of IRIS’ Global Grants recipients this year, Nigerian alumni Nendi Solomon taught locals in his village and important trade-shoe making. In addition to hiring a professional to teach the craft, Nendi led workshops to teach participants about marketing their wares.

12. Jaya Wina promotes literacy in small Indonesian village

2014 YES alumna, Jaya Wina was another Global Grant recipient in 2016. She used her funds to buy books to be distributed to children in the remote village of Karang Sari. She left the village with tears in her eyes after creating such a strong connection with the students there.

13. Georgian alumni urges youths to create their own NGOs

A group of adult program alumni including 2008 participant Natela Natroshvili wanted to share their love of volunteerism with local youth. With the help of colleagues Aleksander and Irina, she created a summer camp that taught students how to go about creating their own NGO.

14. Alumna helps female dropouts learn valuable life skills

Tanzanian alumna, Hudhaifat Hamdan (a 2014-2015 YES participant) pioneered a workshop that taught female dropouts valuable life skills. Over the course of four months, they learned how to be a more productive member of society.

15. Welcome two new board members

In November two new board members were voted onto IRIS’ executive board-Chris Fultz and Marina Reasoner. Chris and Marina were recommended by other board members to fill the role. Chris, because of his marketing background and networking in Des Moines. Mariana, for her past international experience and connections at Iowa State University.

16. Over 2,167 hours of community service logged by our students

Whether they were helping at our International Peace Walk, lending a hand in their local church, contributing time at museums, nursing homes or food pantries our students make volunteering a priority. In 2016 alone our on program students contributed a total of 2,167 hours. This isn’t even including hours that our alumni commit after returning home.

Thank you to everyone that made 2016 a great year for Iowa Resource for International Service. We hope that 2017 is even better!


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