Exchange Student Younes Awashra Brings Energy and Positivity to South Dade

At the girls soccer game vs. Ferguson, Younes cheers on the Lady Bucs.
At the girls’ soccer game vs. Ferguson, Younes cheers on the Lady Bucs.
Marialaura Garcia Marrero

At almost every event, whether it be a sports game, school dance, or spirit event, junior Younes Awashra is hard to miss.

“I love the fact that he has so much school spirit. It’s exciting to have students that have that enthusiasm about coming to school and being part of South Dade because, for me, this is home. So when I see students like him, it’s what I want for everybody else, to be happy to be here and appreciate what we have,” Principal Jay De Armas said.

Originally from Ramallah, Palestine, Younes is adapting well to his life in Florida as an exchange student. He originally wanted to do his exchange year as a sophomore, but issues finding a host family delayed that plan.

“I went through all the orientations, they taught us everything that we needed to know, but then out of the 29 students, only 21 people found host families, which out of the 19 years of my scholarship’s history has never happened before,” Younes said.

He didn’t let the delay deter him from his dream of coming to America, so he decided to come for his junior year. During the pre-screening process, he was prepped on how to answer questions he might be asked in America, participated in interviews, and was tested on his knowledge of the culture through verbal, auditory, and reading tests.

“They asked us some questions they told us we’d be asked here, and someone asked me with a straight face, ‘Do you ride a camel?’.  I thought it was a ridiculous question at the time because ‘Who would ask that?’, but I did get asked by a student in P.E. whether I rode a camel or not,” Younes said

Out of the thousands of students who originally applied, only a few made it through all stages of the process, including Younes. The finalists were placed in group discussions, and in Younes’s group, he and another student led and carried the conversation, impressing the interviewers by showing their initiative.

“Some of the students stayed mostly silent, but me and another student were talking a lot and going back and forth with different points, and we showed that we were going to take a stand to actually answer questions and agree to disagree sometimes.”

After an extensive interviewing and preparation process, Younes was on his way to Florida. He began the school year 3 weeks late due to an issue with paperwork but has been celebrating Buc Nation since.

At one of the girls’ volleyball games, Younes spent the whole game cheering for the girls, hyping up the crowd, and building up the spirit. He encouraged everyone else in the gymnasium to cheer along with him, and he cheered the girls to victory.

“I want to try to be as outgoing and as positive as possible. The volleyball game was the first sports game I attended in the US. I cheered at the top of my lungs, and I lost my voice the next day.”

Business Manager Ruben Orta saw Younes’s energy spread throughout the entire gymnasium and decided to reward him for his positivity. He was gifted a South Dade spirit shirt and free entry to all sports games for the rest of the school year.

“Younes is what we need at South Dade. We’re trying to rebuild the brand of athletics, and all Younes does is bring positivity and energy. You can hear him cheering, he’s jumping up and down, the parents love him, and that’s why I brought him in,” Orta said.

Among many of the firsts Younes is experiencing in America, he celebrated his first time trying Gatorade with the athletic department.

“He tried Gatorade for the first time with us. He was like, ‘What is this?’, and I told him ‘This is Gatorade! It’s a sports drink.’” Orta said.

Shortly after, he was welcomed with open arms by the dance department when dance teacher Ashley Wojnar invited Younes to dance in the 70s themed winter dance showcase. He danced in a solo as Napoleon from the movie Napoleon Dynamite.

“At one of the football games, we saw him dancing and cheering on the team. I was like ‘Who is this kid?’ and the administrators filled me in and suggested I put him in the dance show. I thought he would make a good Napoleon since the music is from the 70s. He’s such a vibrant spirit and he did a great job, he was a natural,” Wojnar said.

Younes’s ultimate goal of his exchange year is to help educate people on his home country, gain life skills, and to make new friends and connections at South Dade.

“It was an opportunity that is life-changing. It shows you how people outside your country live, and it gives you the skills to be an ambassador. Living here has been the best time of my life, and if I could stay longer I would. My goal is to experience new things and be a fuller person by the end of it,” Younes said.

He has big plans for the rest of his time in America, and he hopes to be the first student in his program to be able to stay for two years.

“Since it’s the first time in history that students in the scholarship didn’t find host families, hopefully, I’ll get another first and it’ll be the first time in history they let students stay another year.”

Younes dancing as Napoleon at the winter dance showcase. (Marialaura Garcia Marrero)
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  • R

    RabeeJan 18, 2024 at 3:55 pm

    Broud of u

  • M

    Mrs. HannJan 13, 2024 at 10:22 pm

    We love Younis at South Dade. Not only is his school spirit contagious but a simple conversation with him brightens your day. He is an extremely intelligent and outgoing young man. I am proud to be his school counselor ☺️

  • K

    KacperJan 12, 2024 at 9:42 pm

    I totally agree Younes is awesome!

  • Y

    Younes AwashrehJan 12, 2024 at 9:13 pm

    I couldn’t be happier to call myself a student at South Dade, if I got a thousand more chances, I’d love to he here and cheer through all of them. I love you all, you’re wonderful people and this is life-changing for me.