By Olta Myslimi ’12, YES alumni coordinator for Albania
On December 9th, State Department alumni from the YES and Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship Summer Institute Programs had the honor and pleasure to meet for the first time with Mr. Andy Rabens, who serves as the Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues at the Department of State in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Mr. Rabens focuses on helping the U.S. Government better engage young people to solve the challenges of today and also building a greater global network for a more secure future.
The meeting took place at the U.S. Embassy Tirana, where twenty alumni ( YES students: Drini Zusi, Elvana Qeli, Enxhi Lami, Ermioni Qafzezi, Igli Velcani, Katerina Hatiaj, Katerina Margariti, Klea Troka, Kristina Marku, Marsid Nuho, Mirsela Gorani, Oriana Hajdari, Rebeka Borizani, Redona Collaku, BFTF alumni: Patricia Myslimi, Megi Reci, Flavia Domi, Era Tushaj, Anri Kodhelaj) from both programs participated accompanied by Public Affairs Assistant Brian Street, Assistant for Education Affairs Mirela Cupi, and American Councils Office Director Linda Meniku.
At the beginning of the meeting, alumni were introduced to Mr. Rabens, who spoke about his career at the U.S. Department of State, his work and experience with Youth Global Issues across the world–specifically youth engagement in the Middle East and North Africa, serving as Public Diplomacy Desk Officer for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, his service in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, and previous work on youth issues. His brilliant and successful career was valued by alumni who showed an enormous interest in learning as much as they could from Mr. Rabens during the meeting.
Afterwards, the alumni introduced themselves, the program they participated in, their host states, their first impressions of the U.S.A, their experience as exchange students, and how the experience has changed their way of thinking and analyzing certain situations. Furthermore, alumni jumped in with several questions on youth issues that are affecting Albanian youngsters nowadays such as, unemployment, lack of self-development opportunities, education disparity, the significant role that youth organizations are playing in addressing different issues to government, and also discussed global youth challenges. The alumni shared their thoughts, hopes, aspirations, and their future plans to work on overcoming these problematic issues and create a prosperous future for all of us.
For a short amount of time, Public Affairs Officer Valerie O’Brien and Ambassador Arvizu stopped by to greet Mr. Rabens and the participants.
Our alumni were so pleased and honored to have met directly with a U.S. State Department diplomat and learn from an expert about global youth issues. We look forward to more productive and splendid meetings where we learn from successful professionals!