March 2018, Vol. XXIII, No. 6

 

3) Civic Education Workshop

The Civic Education Workshop (CEW) is an annual, one-week program held in Washington, D.C. It is funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The program provides an opportunity for qualifying FLEX and YES students to gain a better understanding of some of the key concepts and values integral to U.S. society and culture. Participants learn firsthand about the U.S. federal system of government and other important concepts through seminar discussions, briefings, and meetings on Capitol Hill. Being selected is a distinct honor and so is hearing how it went from two PAXers: one FLEX and one YES.

Amir poses in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

MY CIVIC EDUCATION STORY

Out of 803 YES students, 500 applied, and 100 were chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. Making new friends, meeting prominent people, digging into the deepest history of America, touring the wonderful city of Washington D.C...100 aspiring leaders received this opportunity.

Six days filled with walking, talking, and new ideas, the Civic Education Workshop (CEW) definitely convinced us to be the best version of ourselves, not just for us but for others as well. We are already ambassadors, but drive and determination are not enough. CEW is a great source of ideas and networks to be able to accomplish goals which are part of the mission of the YES program.

I was an alternate for the workshop, but with God’s grace, after two days, I was notified that I was a finalist! Not a coincidence but indeed destiny. I wasn’t just a participant; I was given the privilege of being one of the Social Media Specialists who covered the workshop on social media sites. I met one of the smartest people I have ever known. I visited places that I will only visit once in my life. It has been an honor to represent my country, host state, host community, school, heritage, program, and myself to people who truly listen and help fulfill our duty as citizens of the world.

People ask me about the best part of my trip. Well, the people I met and whom I will forever cherish were the best part of it, as was walking in museums, on the mall, and in the hotel wearing my national costume. Also, Capitol Hill and meeting members of the House of Representatives and the Senate was truly amazing.

—Amir (YES, Philippines), hosted by the McGinnis family (OH)

[Image: Amir poses in front of the Lincoln Memorial.]

 

tara montenegro indiana flex 533x400

CEW INSPIRES

As a future leader, possibly a future diplomat, and a lover of the law, my dream has always been to go to Washington D.C.—the capital of the free world. When I found out that I had been accepted to go to the Civic Education Workshop (CEW), I was thrilled, but I couldn’t even imagine what a life-changing experience was waiting for me.

Among all of the magnificent sites that we visited during the week, such as memorials built for important historical figures (including presidents Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and for Martin Luther King Jr.), the Washington Monument, the White House,  Capitol Hill, and all of the important, breathtaking buildings, something else made a bigger impression on me.

What I enjoyed the most was that I had the opportunity to meet and talk to some of the most inspiring leaders. When I say that, I don’t only mean Indiana senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, who didn’t hesitate to give us some tips and tricks about our host states. We also met former U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Jenifer Zimdahl Galt, desk representative for Montenegro Florence Akinyemi, and for Serbia Tyler Sparks. They wanted to hear our opinions about current political situations in our home countries, and inspired us to talk about some of the issues that we find sensitive.

When I say most inspiring leaders, I don’t only mean our amazing coordinators and workshop leaders who were so patient with us, prepared us for everything we might encounter, and became our friends who calmed us down when we were nervous about the Capitol Hill day and all the meetings we had. They taught us about history, architecture, leadership, politics, and diplomacy. But the most important thing I learned from them is to make the most of every opportunity. I will always remember their words on the first day, “Out of thousands of applicants for the FLEX program, you have been chosen. Out of hundreds of applicants for the Civic Educational Workshop, you have been chosen. You owe it to all of those students and people around the world who would love to be in your place right now, to be the best you can be and make the most out of this opportunity.”

But when I say that I’ve met some of the most inspiring leaders, I also think about the 99 other FLEX students from all over the world who have truly become my family. Listening to them, their experiences and ideas made me think about how lucky I was to be in the same room with present and future leaders. I never imagined how much one person could learn in a week. My exchange year has changed me a lot, but this week has changed me even more. Thanks to our amazing alumni—Dina from Montenegro, Shuhrat from Tajikistan, and Ketevan from Georgia—who found the time to come to D.C. and prepare us for what is coming next. Now, I am not afraid of change.

It is true what they say about exchange students. They can never be completely at home; a part of their heart will always be somewhere else in the world. But to me, and to my friends from Montenegro and Serbia, this week felt like home. Washington D.C. felt like home. So, thank you FLEX; thank you American Councils; and thank you American Civics Center for all the effort you put into this perfect week, which right now feels like a dream.

—Tara (FLEX, Montenegro), hosted by the Page family (IN)

[Image: Tara proudly represented her nation on Capitol Hill.]