1st place - Jana Loncar
Jana was incredibly active this year. In addition to going above and beyond in her participation in International Education Week (winning second place in her PO's IEW competition) and participating in the A-SMYLE and YES Civic Education Week, Jana took it upon herself to participate in and help lead many of cluster activities this year, as well as finding individual projects to do in her community. She has become a strong advocate for individuals with special needs, having been placed in a Host Family with a special needs son. She learned Spanish, quickly progressing through higher classes at school, and started assisting local organizations in translating their brochures for Spanish-speaking residents. Very importantly, Jana has taken it upon herself to promote her PO, her program, her country, and international exchange overall at every possible moment.
Said her Local Coordinator of Jana, "There are many qualities that make Jana a true leader and make her deserving of this award: her abilities to listen to others, to be a spokesperson for a group, and to plan and organize activities make her a strong leader. Her devotion to a task and her tenacity to never give up are great strengths, as well. Her abilities to be adaptable and to show appreciation are beyond her years. However, I believe Jana’s greatest leadership strength, which sets her apart from other leaders, is her initiative. She is not a student who waits for others to take the lead, but she goes into a situation prepared to lead the group towards a desirable outcome. She does not wait for opportunities to come to her, but instead she makes opportunities happen."
2nd place - Bojana Tomovic
Bojana found many ways to volunteer her time this year. Upon arriving in the U.S., she immediately joined the FCCLA and took a speech class at school, which led to her becoming a part of the "Poetry Posse", a performance team in which she gave six performances. She also entered the "Poetry Out Loud" competition, where she took 3rd place. In her high school, she played powder puff football, joined the tennis team, and worked for various extracurricular volunteer activities. Her host sister is a student at the Montevallo Elementary school, and Bojana helped teachers in her sister’s classroom and also helped set up dances for fundraisers at the school. Outside of school, Bojana trained to be a horse handler with the Special Equestrians in Pelham, Alabama, which is a therapy program for special needs children.
In her Local Coordinator's view, however, it’s not what Bojana has done, but how she’s done it that makes her such a strong leader. "When looking at the qualities of Bojana, you would have to say she exhibits so many of the most important qualities of a leader: communication skills, discipline, integrity, dedication, humility, creativity, and fairness. Bojana not only is positive when things are good, but when they aren't as well. She reminds me of the saying, 'Character is what you see after the third and fourth attempt.' This year has been a year filled with obstacles, and she did not let [anything] get in the way of pursuing and doing well in anything she put her mind to."
3rd place—Haris Bogucanin
In addition to participating in various activities in his community, Haris assisted his school’s soccer coach on the varsity team. When he found out he was initially unable to play due to a medical issue, he joined the team in this capacity. Said his Local Coordinator, "The guys on the team appreciate his encouragement and positive attitude. He went to each game, kept the guys’ stats, and assisted the coach in whatever was needed. He was supposed to go to only home games, but the guys and the coach wanted him at all games."
What is more, she says, "Haris is a natural leader showing concern for those around him and willing to help and give to all those he comes in contact with. He is a determined, ethical, intelligent, caring, and kind young man that will no doubt go far in life. He possesses a strong awareness and desire to learn about the world and people around him while holding strong to his own moral values and cultural fiber. He understands the value of hard work and striving for a set goal. Haris accepts and steps up to challenges with determination, honesty, and integrity. He understands the value of people and relationships. He is respectful and sincere in his interactions. Haris is willing to volunteer in his community and give to others through service. He is a very positive role model and ambassador for his country and a true leader."
Honorable Mention - Zoran Stojanovic
Says Zoran's Local Coordinator about him, "Zoran's volunteer activities have been very well rounded, including Habitat for Humanity, school fundraisers, a community Fall Festival event, cross-country manager at school, helping at church events, helping with the free lunch program, and even raking leaves for the elderly. Every month since arriving, Zoran shared his country through presentations at school, at church, and in the local newspaper." Additional noteworthy items - Zoran won a spot in the A-SMYLE and YES Civic Education Workshop this spring as well as Honorable Mention in the World Link IEW competition. He’s also maintained his Gold Honor Roll status at school and always has a very positive attitude.
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