Friday, March 12, 2010

Students from Bosnia and Herzegovina prepare for IDEA exchange program

In two weeks, on March 26th, eighteen students and three teachers from Bosnia and Herzegovina will arrive in Salem, Oregon for the second annual Bosnia and Herzegovina Youth Leadership Program. Participants were selected for this program during February and are now preparing for their month-long trip to the United States. During the first week of March, the participants attended a pre-departure orientation workshop, in which they learned about the expectations and details of the leadership program.

"On the first day of the orientation the three separate groups, representing three very distinct regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, met each other for the very first time," explained Elizabeth Carson-Garland, the program manager from the IDEA-US office. The country is split between three ethnic backgrounds of Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks. "By the end of the week, it was apparent they recognized themselves as one Youth Leadership Program group, representing their country. I am excited to watch the students form life-long cross-ethnic friendships during their stay in the U.S."

Students and teachers of the 2010 Bosnia and Herzegovina Youth Leadership Program

Hosted by IDEA, Willamette University, and the U.S. Department of State, the program explores the meaning behind democratic citizenship through the three-week Civic Education and Leadership Institute at Willamette University, local community service projects, and visits to local high schools. In addition, sightseeing will also be a part of the curriculum with trips to local museums and attractions, and a week-long visit to the United States capital in Washington, DC!

"This program will be a great opportunity for me- I will meet a new culture and people and I will improve my English speaking skills," said one of the participants, Senka Kulenović. "I will be able to promote everything that I've learned in the United States of America about democracy and share my knowledge with other people my age, and that is a way to make a difference in my country."

During their stay, participants will actively engage with the community of Salem. The students and teachers will reside with local host families throughout the program. They will attend classes and workshops during the institute at Willamette University, which is located just across the street from Oregon's state capital building and near state, county and local civic centers. They will also attend some classes at local high schools, and visit local non-profit agencies to engage in community service projects. The program also includes a debate tournament, the Youth Leadership Festival, which will take place on April 20 for students of the Bosnia program and high school students of the Willamette Academy.

For more information on the Bosnia and Herzegovina Youth Leadership Program, visit the program website.

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