By Malsore Jusufi (YES 2014-15, Kosovo, hosted by American Councils PO in Saint Louis, MO)
My name is Malsore Jusufi. During my YES year in Missouri, I learned a lot – not only about myself but also about the world around me. One of the most important lessons I learned is that you have the ability to change your community for the better.
Growing up, there were things that I wished to improve about my community such as the lack of extracurricular activities in my school, Ali Hadri Middle School. After I returned home from my exchange year, I went to my former school to see what had changed and to hold a presentation about helping the environment for a class of third graders. As it turned out, not a lot had changed in the school since I left. But the students were very enthusiastic and curious to hear about my experiences and share their opinions.
I wanted to do something bigger; something that would affect a greater number of students. Fortunately, I met a Peace Corps volunteer in my city who told me about a regional spelling bee she had been organizing. The idea of holding a spelling bee at my old middle school seemed very intriguing, so I applied for a 2016 YES alumni grant, and the project received funding.
The participants of the spelling bee were seventh and eighth grade students. The participants learned quickly and always came prepared. It was amazing to see such great potential come to life and take shape. In October 2016, 12 students competed in the spelling bee in front of a live audience. The audience included parents, students, teachers, and other community members; approximately 100 people attended the event. The student who won first place advanced to a regional spelling bee organized by the Peace Corps. The same student won first place there, too!
I am very happy with the way the project unfolded and even happier that so many people helped with its implementation. I am forever thankful for the opportunity and support the YES Program gave me to help bring my vision to life. The school principal and the teachers were also helpful throughout the planning and implementation of the event. Peace Corps Volunteer, Chester Eng, helped prepare the students for the event by practicing with them. And last but not least, I want to thank my family and my sisters for their moral support.