The US Embassy invited young Kuwaiti participants in an English language and skills program sponsored by the Department of State to a Thanksgiving lunch at Bait Al-Othman Museum on Saturday.
Attending the event was US Ambassador to Kuwait Matthew H. Tueller, who said that the event would teach the Kuwaiti youngsters "about our holidays and our traditions and learn from them about Kuwaiti traditions.
"This is a truly wonderful way to build bridges between our two cultures and to build a greater understanding," he told KUNA and KTV.
The English Access Microscholarship Program in Kuwait has been run by non-profit educational organisation AMIDEAST/Kuwait since 2004, and is sponsored by the US Department of State to benefit Kuwaiti youth at public secondary schools from all governorates. To date, approximately 1,000 students aged 13-15 have attended this two-year scholarship.
The English language curriculum strengthens English speaking, writing, listening and reading skills with additional extracurricular activities. Activities may include guest speakers in the class, field trips in Kuwait for cultural activities (such as films, exhibitions and concerts), as well as visits to different Kuwaiti and American organizations.
"We have excellent teachers and instructors who are hired and run by Amideast and what we see is at the end of that two-year period we receive young men and women who have now gained confidence in their skills and English language."But, more importantly, their leadership skills really develop through involvement in this program," he added.
Maryam Salah Shihab, 16, who has graduated from the program which was held three times a week and two hours a day, said it helped her English, strengthened her leadership and communication skills and was an ideal way to occupy her spare time.
"It (the program) has really helped my English, but it also helped my personality - it made me more outgoing, in speaking. I was shy but now I'm ok. It also helps you fill your time wisely - we had a lot of different activities outside of the campus, like visits to Arifjain (the US military base) and Failaka Island. In the activities we had to speak English, so it was a really good program to improve your English.
Najat Al-Hindi, 14, applied for the program in 2012 and started last year. "It is comfortable, it is a family atmosphere and you can improve your English. That is the important thing about the Access Program and I hope to study dentistry in America," she said.
"When I started the Access Program I realised it was going to be difficult and that I can't communicate with the teacher and that I was going to be shy. But I felt like I was with a new family - my teacher was wonderful.
Her classmate Meshari Al-Qaffas aged 16, who also hopes to be a dentist said, "we came to learn some English and to improve our English. We learned a lot of vocabulary like how to talk in English, how to chat with people in English from America and other cities.
All of the students involved in the program are from Kuwaiti public schools, and while some have applied through Amideast's advertisements spread throughout newspapers, magazines and social networking websites, others have been notified by their schools, Amideast Country Director, Samar Khlaif told KUNA.
"Students can come in with no English at all, that's the beauty of the Access Program and we take up to 95 students per program.
On the program's aims she said they are essentially "educational and cultural" exchange. "The root of it is the English language - that's the ultimate goal. Then the idea is that they are exposed culturally to different ideas and to possibly see a different way of doing things. At the end of the day it is promoting that understanding between cultures.