On April 25-27, the Office of Public Affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo hosted a reunion and leadership conference on Mt. Bjelasnica for secondary school students and teachers who participated in the U.S. Embassy’s Youth Leadership Program. The conference gathered over 110 students and teacher alumni from our 2012-2014 programs. Ambassador Maureen Cormack opened the conference by challenging YLP alumni to engage in a meaningful dialog on how they can use the skills they learned in the U.S. to contribute to solving problems in BiH. During her visit to the reunion, the Ambassador highlighted the U.S. commitment to the people of BiH, and talked about the important role young people play in shaping the future, stating “Young people all over the country are working to unite their communities, to build foundations for cooperation and reconciliation.” The goal of the conference was to empower youth involved in the program to engage in initiatives to further develop BiH civil society.
During the event, they took part in leadership workshops led by speakers from BiH and the U.S., and took the opportunity to network and share ideas about how they have put the leadership skills they learned during their exchange experience to use in their own communities. The Youth Leadership Program was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1998, and served as the model for what is now a worldwide program with over 4,000 alumni from 116 countries. The program brings together socially committed high school-aged student leaders from diverse ethnic backgrounds to visit the United States for four weeks of leadership training, community service, and the chance to live with an American family, as well as study of civics, debate, and conflict resolution. Each year, the U.S. Embassy holds an open competition to select participants for the exchange from 2-3 different cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Participants who attended the alumni conference were from Sarajevo, East Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Orasje, Bihac, Mostar, Trebinje, Jajce and Bijeljina.