SYLP Alumnus Who Visited Serbia in 2010 Graduated in the U.S.

Rondoe (aka Randy) Taylor of San Francisco, California visited Serbia in 2010 and spent his time with a host family in Vršac. Rondoe came to Serbia on Serbia Youth Leadership Program, a short-term Department of State exchange program for American and Serbian teenagers (now defunct). This spring Rondoe graduated from the Simpson College! Here is what he wrote about his accomplishment:

“I am not just getting a college degree for myself, but I am getting this degree for them and my ancestors, who could not go to college or afford to go to college because of personal sacrifices they had to make for their family and outside circumstances beyond their control. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way by any means but my goal in doing this was to also set a standard to some degree within my family that, if I can get a degree, SO CAN YOU. NO LIMITS, just got for it and explore the world of vast opportunities. I am starting the foundation for a legacy to built and for dreams to become a reality. I am paving the way, making a future for myself and my world. Therefore, I am grateful for all the friends (Past, Present and Future) and family ( Past, Present, and Future), who have and who will make this possible together”

Congratulations, Rondoe!
‪#‎americancouncils‬ ‪#‎exchangeprograms‬ ‪#‎statedepartmentalumni‬

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Photo: Rondoe’s Facebook

RECYCLETON 2011 Kicks Off with 400 Kilos of Waste Collected in Niš

Vukašin Janjović, a 2011 coordinator for Recycleton in Raška, and Think Big Team president Katarina Kohen (A-SMYLE '07) load electronic waste for recycling

Think Big Team, an NGO formed in early 2010 by A-SMYLE alumni, kicked off their yearly nationwide eco-marathon, RECYCLETON, on May 28, 2011 in the city of Niš. The primary goal of this project is to raise awareness about environmental protection and recycling in Serbia with an emphasis on the ecological and safe disposal of e-waste, while simultaneously promoting volunteerism and civic activism among alumni and other youth.

The action was held in downtown Niš and lasted for several hours. In that time, 30 Think Big Team volunteers successfully managed to collect 400 kilograms (881 pounds) of e-waste. While a number of volunteers greeted citizens who brought the waste themselves, local coordinators patrolled Niš and collected disposables from homes. All waste was transported to Pančevo to be recycled by BiS Recycling Center, which partnered with Think Big Team on this project thanks to one of its employees, Community Connections ’09 alumnus Božidar Potkonjak. Last year’s RECYCLETON collected 14.5 tons (about 32,000 pounds) of e-waste, also recycled at BiS Recycling Center.

This first leg of Recycleton 2011 was organized by A-SMYLE finalist Marko Stojanović and his classmate Janko Belopavlović. Recycleton Niš hosted guests from the American Embassy in Belgrade. The action in Niš is the first of ten planned for this year’s RECYCLETON and will be followed by actions in Vrbas on June 10th and Srbobran June 11th.

A-SMYLE and SYLP Alumni Hold Kickball Tournament Fundraiser Following Seminar on How to Creatively Raise Funds

SYLP and A-SMYLE alumni engage in leadership workshop

From May 28 to 29, 2011, A-SMYLE and SYLP alumni gathered in Belgrade for seminar on fundraising, leadership, and teamwork. Over the course of the twoday event, 30 alumni, guided by trainer Snežana Bačlija Knoch, discussed new ideas for creative fundraising activities and community
projects and built skills in the areas of communication, leadership, and teamwork.  Having some previous experience in fundraising, the alumni were able to take full advantage of this event, identifying previous weaknesses and learning how to improve in the future.

The seminar was followed by outdoor fun and team bonding in the form of a charity
kickball tournament at Ada. With rules dictating that all funds raised would go to the charity of the winning team’s choice, preparatory fundraising by two teams of SYLP and A-SMYLE alumni as well as American Councils staff generated close to $450.

TheMuffin Stuffers” team won the tournament and selected Dušan Dugalić School for Children with Disabilities—a school to which the A-SMYLE and SYLP alumni community has previously donated money and supplies—as their beneficiary. Both teams were happy and proud to continue their support of this institution and its students.

Both the seminar and the kickball tournament were organized by American Councils, with support from the Association of Sports and Recreation for People with Disabilities of Belgrade (SSRIB). Tijana Hrkalović, Public Affairs Assistant for the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, attended the second day of the seminar and the tournament.

Improving Communities One Year After U.S. Experience

Participants in the Serbia Youth Leadership Program (SYLP) sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by American Councils spent May 2010 in the U.S. on intensive community work and leadership trainings.  One year later, SYLP alumni are applying what they learned from their U.S. teachers and peers to their own communities in Serbia.

Gavrić, Jovanović and Veđej prepare to cut a cake that thanks the U.S. Department of State for their support

Andrea Gavrić, Aleksa Jovanović and Mariana Veđej are three SYLP alumni who saw a need in their community and found a creative way to address it.  They noticed that there were many children and teenagers in their community who liked to sing and dance, but who could not find space to practice or instructors to help them learn and improve, and so they founded the Serbian Talents Club.  Thanks to support from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and donation of practice space and technical equipment from the municipality of Novi Beograd and Novobeogradska Kulturna Mreža, Gavrić, Jovanović and Veđej are able to offer students in their community a creative outlet and instruction in singing and dancing free of charge. Gavrić and Veđej—themselves experienced performers—offer dancing and singing lessons, while Jovanović acts as the club’s spokesperson and takes care of logistics.  There are currently twenty students participating in the club.

On May 6, 2011, Serbian Talents Club organized a small performance that showcased the singing and dancing talents of six of its members.  The audience had an opportunity to enjoy singing and dancing in Serbian, French, Slovak, English, German and Russian languages and styles.

Cleaning the Raška was dirty but enjoyable work for alumni and volunteers

SYLP alumni from Novi Pazar Anel Bajrović, Ana Čolović, Haris Ćorović, Šejla Đakovac, Emir Gračanin, Mihailo Jevtović, Mersija Plojović, and Danilo Radetić were concerned about the environment and in particular the condition of the river Raška that runs through their hometown. Using the methods they learned in the U.S., they organized a cleaning action on April 23 and 24, 2011.  They invited their high school friends and spent the entire weekend cleaning the river.

Goranović and Krivokapić prepare for a reception in the student space

SYLP alumni from Vrbas Miljan Ćorović, Milica Đilas, Konstantin Đuričković, Aneta Goranović, Ana Krivokapić, Nađa Marinković, Slavica Matijašević, Katarina Međedović, Ana-Marija Nedić, Isidora Radević, and Vladica Vojinović were inspired by their experience in America to find ways to address issues related to youth in their hometown and nearby villages. The youth formed two teams, For Us, By Us and Learn It, Live It, Love It.  The For Us, By Us team successfully lobbied for space in Vrbas High School and now run a student group that organizes activities, workshops, and peer-to-peer lectures.  The Learn It, Live It, Love It team organized workshops that trained more than 70 primary and secondary school students in how to organize community projects.  Alumni of these workshops are now kicking off their own projects!  Both teams received funding and support from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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