Yemin Orde’s gap year leadership programs for young immigrant men and women are the only such leadership programs geared specifically for at-risk immigrant youth.
For the 67 graduates of the young men’s program (Mechina in Hebrew), family members got a taste of the kind of subjects taught in the program, which included Israeli geography, public speaking, cognitive awareness, and family relationships.
Participants shared the many life lessons they will take with them as they move on with their lives.
“In order to be more independent, we learned to clean this building and to prepare our own food,” said graduate Matan. “We also learned to give more respect to our families and see the importance of helping with these things at home.”
Another graduate, Nissim, described the importance of learning about the geography of Israel: “If we had never come on the program, I would have never learned so much about the places of our ancestors, about the places our families had only dreamed of reaching until very recently.”
Avraham Yehiyas, a graduate of the program who is currently an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, addressed the young men who will soon serve in the military. “Today you have so much motivation. My advice to you is to keep that motivation high throughout your service, even when things get tough, and to open your minds to different opportunities,” he said.
Amikam Savirsky, who represented Israel’s Ministry of Defense, praised the Mechina program and its success. “I am not exaggerating when I say that very few educational programs can list achievements as impressive as these Mechina programs,” he said.
An Energetic IsraElite Graduation
The graduation ceremony for the Young Women’s Mechina, which is called IsraElite, was held in Migdal Haemek with 25 participants completing the challenging 10-month program.
Special guest speaker, Karen Sallerson, Executive Director, Friends of Yemin Orde, who arrived from Washington, D.C. to attend the graduation, told the young women to remain optimistic and shared her personal life experiences.
“There will be times when your life won’t go as planned or when you find yourself overwhelmed. I can tell you from experience that to be successful in a career and in your personal life, it will be important for you to have the skills to depend on yourself,” Sallerson said.
The graduates gave an energetic and moving show of skits, song and dance, covering the highlights of their year on the program. They showed the audience how they overcame challenges of long hikes and physical training, learned about teamwork, perseverance and the importance of community service.
They also learned to connect to their cultural heritage, to their families, and to themselves. “We laughed, cried, and learned together this year. We know the importance of looking towards to future with optimism, and without fear,” said Balaynish, a recent graduate.
One participant’s mother, who spoke on behalf of all of the parents, had to pause to compose herself as she was moved to tears. “We gave you our daughters this year, and I am amazed by their experience here. All a child needs is one adult who believes in them, and you have given our girls so many.”
Haim Rubovitch, Chief Executive Officer, Village Way Educational Initiatives, told the young women, “You are a source of pride for your families, and the hope of Israeli society. It is a privilege for us to call you our graduates.”
The men’s Mechina and IsraElite programs are supported through the Village Way Educational Initiatives.