YES is highlighting an alum from each year of the program.
Alumni coordinator for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lamija Jamak (YES 2013-2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by PAX in Marysville, WA), recently sat down to interview star alumnus Irfan Durmic (YES 2015-2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by World Link in Caseyville, IL).
Lamija: Since returning to Bosnia and Herzegovina after your exchange year, you have organized many educational programs, including ongoing classes in advanced physics for high school students and a workshop called New Glasses to teach your peers how to impact their communities through engagement and service. What inspired you to carry out these projects?
Irfan: I came up with the basic concept of the New Glasses workshop after the 2017 IDEAL workshop in Cetinje, Montenegro. I felt quite fortunate to have been given the chance to learn alongside YES and FLEX alumni, so I decided to pass on my newly gained knowledge of community project design, organization, and implementation to my high school peers. I held 10 three hour lectures for 10 students. The aim of the workshop was to teach students how to impact their local community, and they demonstrated their newfound skills through a project presentation and proposal.
But teaching advanced physics classes to six of my high school peers has by far been my favorite project yet. I consider myself a physicist in the making, so I set out to use my experience from international physics competitions to help gifted students deepen their understanding of the universe. I started teaching the classes in September 2017, and we are still having lectures!
Lamija: What impact did the YES program and/or the YES alumni program have on your work?
Irfan: The YES program helped me realize that we really don’t have any boundaries – everything is achievable. My placement organization, World Link Inc., motivated students to be as engaged as possible, so I got the chance to really prove myself and show my full capabilities. I was also inspired by many of my teachers at my host school, Collinsville High School.
With the YES Alumni Association, I’ve had two wonderful coordinators (Davor Tunjic and Lamija Jamak), and it’s always a great pleasure to work with them. Being a YES City Representative has made it possible for me to add more depth to my educational projects. We also have amazing people working at American Councils in Sarajevo who really do a wonderful job. It’s a true blessing for me to be a part of this YES family!
Lamija: Why have you focused so much on peer education?
Irfan: Education systems everywhere have great flaws. Instead of pointing out all the flaws in the Bosnian education system, I decided to do something about it. There is a lack of practical work in physics courses, so that inspired me to organize the advanced physics classes at my high school. To explain my main “motivators” for working on peer education, I must give credit to Richard P. Feynman and John C. Maxwell. Feynman points out that true understanding is achieved only when a person explains something to others. Explaining physics to students who don’t understand the subject or who want more knowledge than is offered in a regular class pushed me to learn more about physics and helped me gain a new perspective on this fascinating subject. John C. Maxwell emphasizes that true leaders share their knowledge in order to make new leaders. In a world dominated by ignorance, I feel our duty is to share knowledge so that we can open people’s eyes. Finally, I just think that knowledge is our greatest hope of having peace and prosperity in our time.
Lamija: What results have you seen from the projects you have organized so far? What do you hope the long-term impact of your projects will be?
Irfan: When I started the New Glasses workshop, many of the students were uncomfortable expressing their beliefs and opinions freely to others. The workshop participants really improved their rhetorical skills, which made me proud. Many stated in a post-workshop survey that they felt more confident in their organizational skills and their ability to influence society. The advanced physics classes have also been a success. Many of the students plan to pursue a career in physics.
My hope is that my students will follow my lead in trying to explore new things and striving to reach new heights. I think every human being has immense potential for something great, and I want my projects to help people become the best versions of themselves. Finally, I hope my students share the knowledge they’ve gained from me and then go out and learn even more and share that too. Let’s make the world smaller by sharing and caring!
Lamija: What's next for you?
Irfan: I have recently been accepted to college. I am planning to major in physics and possibly get a minor in philosophy. I hope I’ll be a good addition to my new college community, and I will certainly use my experiences and knowledge in a productive way. When it comes to long-term goals, I hope to one day be either a physics professor at a university or work in government to promote the importance of high-quality education and the use of renewable energy sources.