Consul General Hicks invited seven alumni of our exchange programs over for tea and cake today, where he discussed his plans and priorities for the upcoming year. We got to hear some amazing success stories from these young people, who told us what a transformative experience their time in the United States was. Since their return, many have gone on to senior positions in civil society, business and government. One alumnus, inspired by volunteer programs in the United States, started a food bank for the poor when he returned to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Another works with the Board of Investment to try to diversify the local economy. Department of State sponsored exchange programs aimed at building bridges between the people of the United States and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Educational and cultural exchanges create human bonds of cooperation and understanding between peoples.