About Us

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Description 

The Bridging Backgrounds program empowers high school students in the Balkans to foster tolerance, expand inter-ethnic understanding, and promote human rights in their communities. The program consists of two phases: learning and activism. During the learning phase, program participants attend a ten-day residential training where they participate in human rights education activities, restorative practice workshops, community activism trainings, digital field trips, and discussions with distinguished activists, politicians, and academics. During the activism phase, each participant designs and implements their own community-based projects with a micro-grant and sustained mentorship from the organizing team.

Dates and Location

The Bridging Backgrounds program has two phases. The first phase of the 2021 program will take place in Skopje, Macedonia in July. The second phase takes place in participants’ home communities between August and December.

Eligibility 

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.

Costs 

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:
– Program tuition and supplies.
– Accommodation and meals during the phase one training.
– Transportation costs to and from the participant’s hometown.
– A micro-grant in for the phase two project.

Requirements

To participate in the programs, students are required to do the following:
– Participate fully in the Bridging Backgrounds residential training in July.
– Complete pre-program and post-program readings, homework, 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 $200 in grant
funding to complete this project.

Application 

Students wanting to apply for the program must apply online here. The deadline to apply
is May 31, 2021. Students who apply through the early application cycle will be notified
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The Organizers

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Brendan Schultz

Program Director

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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. 

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Hristijan Zafirovski

Program Coordinator

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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.

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