A-SMYLE Alumnus Prepares Peers to Organize Community Projects

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A students works on a “problem tree”—one of the assignments given by training instructors Violeta Stankovic and Milorad Mladenovic to help participants understand the planning that goes into preparing a successful project.

This fall, A-SMYLE alumnus Aleksandar Cakic ’10 of Leskovac decided it was time to “promote the importance of active youth participation” in his community.  In an example of just the kind of activism he hopes to see from his peers, Cakic himself took the initiative to turn this idea into a project called “Through Education to Active Participation” (TEAP), the goals of which were “to educate, motivate and support young people to be active in their community.”

The TEAP project, which was organized in cooperation with Educational Centre Leskovac and supported by an A-SMYLE alumni small grant, specifically targeted members of local youth parliaments.  The first phase of the project took place in November, with 20 participants taking part in a three-day project writing and management training led by Cakic and UNDP-trained instructors Violeta Stankovic and Milorad Mladenovic, who have experience leading more than 100 seminars on project cycle management.  Throughout the training, the students were separated into three small groups.  After participating in a series of interactive sessions—which included presentations, lectures, and games—each group was given the task of preparing and presenting a project idea.  At the conclusion of the training, Cakic reported, “I can already see a big change in the students that participated in this training. The group I was working with is very ambitious, hard-working and creative. The program was difficult and demanding, but everyone managed to complete the training and is now capable of writing good project proposals.”

The second phase of the project, which lasted through December, consisted of several meetings between Cakic, Stankovic, Mladenovic and the training participants.  These meetings were an opportunity for students to ask questions and seek advice on their projects, which include a pilot program for introducing a new grading system into the students’ high school, a student jazz concert aimed at promoting cultural events in Leskovac, and a campaign for raising awareness of the risks of driving or walking through intersections on a red light.

Although the TEAP project officially ended at the end of December, the trainers and participants remain in contact, continuing to develop their projects in the hopes of being ready to apply for grant funding in the spring.

When asked whether he felt the project was successful, Cakic replied that he felt all of the goals of the project had been met, and that students not only learned how to write project proposals, but, “their awareness for active youth participation has increased and they are eager to help the community.”  He also added that the students are extremely enthusiastic and that this makes him optimistic for the future, explaining, “even though they aren’t an official group, they feel as a team and work that way…I believe that together we can achieve great things.”