About Bridging Backgrounds


Bridging Backgrounds is a conference for high school students in Macedonia that will bring together a diverse mix of youth from across Macedonia to explore the topics of inter-ethnic understanding, tolerance, and human rights. The conference will take place in Skopje at FON University between Wednesday, June 28, 2017, and Tuesday, July 4, 2017. The conference will include lessons, interactive sessions, breakout sessions, group discussions, talks from participants, and guest speaker presentations that relate to the themes of the conference. As part of their scholarship to the conference, participants will be required to complete a post-program project where the participant works to implement the themes of the conference in the community. Participants are eligible for a grant up to €250 to complete this project.


To be eligible for the conference, students must meet the following criteria:
– Must be a citizen of Macedonia or a permanent resident who has resided in the country for the past two years and will continue to reside in the country for one more year.
– Must be enrolled in a high school in Macedonia and be entering the twelfth, eleventh, or tenth grade for the 2017-2018 academic year.
– Minimum English language proficiency level of B2 according to the CEFR scale.


All students accepted to attend Bridging Backgrounds will receive a full scholarship to the program that covers all necessary costs, aside from personal costs and incidental expenses. The scholarship covers the following costs:
– Conference tuition and supplies.
– Accommodation between Wednesday, June 28 and Tuesday, July 4.
– Three meals a day between dinner on Wednesday, June 28 and breakfast Tuesday, July 4.
– Transportation costs to and from the participant’s hometown in the form of reimbursement.

Program Requirements

In order to participate in Bridging Backgrounds and complete the programs, students are required to do the following:
– Participate fully in the Bridging Backgrounds conference from Wednesday, June 28 to Tuesday, July 4.
– Complete pre-program and post-program readings and surveys.
– Organize a post-conference community-based project that focuses on one of the themes of Bridging Backgrounds and expanding inter-ethnic understanding in their own communities. Students are eligible to receive up to €250 in grant funding to complete this project.


Students wanting to apply for the conference must fill out an application at the following link: “https://unitedbylove.formstack.com/forms/scholarship_application”. The deadline for final applications has been extended to Wednesday, June 14, 2017, by 11:59 PM. Students who apply will be notified of their application status as accepted, wait-listed, or not accepted by June 15, 2017. Applications will be evaluated on the following criteria:
– Commitment to the value of respect for all peoples, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or class.
– Willingness to take a stand for the rights of others.
– Interest in inter-ethnic understanding, tolerance, and human rights.
– Motivation to improve their community by advancing mutual understanding, tolerance, and knowledge of human rights within their community.
– Active involvement in their own communities.
– Potential to foster inter-ethnic understanding, tolerance, and human rights in their own communities.

The Organizers

Brendan Schultz

Program Director

Brendan Schultz is a rising second-year undergraduate student at Pitzer College, a liberal arts college in the Los Angeles area that is a member of the Claremont Consortium. At Pitzer, Brendan studies Politics, Philosophy, and Sociology. In 2016 and 2017, Brendan studied in Macedonia on a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program scholarship, a State Department sponsored high school student exchange program implemented after 9/11 to help maintain diplomatic relationships with predominantly Islamic countries. Brendan leads United by Love, a US-based non-profit that seeks to expand knowledge of human rights, foster tolerance, and expand mutual understanding. In his free time, Brendan enjoys traveling, meeting people from different cultures, and exploring the outdoors. 

Hristijan Zafirovski

Program Coordinator

Hristijan Zafirovski is a twenty-year-old, rising second-year student at the Faculty of Law Iustinianus Primus in Skopje. He gained significant debate experience though six Model European Parliament sessions, including the forty-fourth international session of the Model European Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, where he was a representative on the Macedonian National Delegation. In the past, Hristijan has been involved with various initiatives in his local community, trying to improve the quality of life of discriminated and marginalized individuals in Ohrid, Macedonia. Presently, he decided to start acting on national level and became the Project Coordinator of Bridging Backgrounds Macedonia, youth conference that promotes fostering human rights, mutual tolerance and community activism. Hristijan enjoys reading, swimming, hiking, and socializing with friends during his time off.