When Jelena Jevtic first heard about the U.N. Youth Assembly, she wasn’t sure if she should apply.
When Jelena Jevtic first heard about the UN Youth Assembly, she wasn't sure if she should apply.
But she did. She will be one of more than 1,000 students from around the world involved in the prestigious gathering next month in New York City. This year, the theme is "Innovation and Collaboration for a Sustainable World."
Born in Serbia, Jelena is a senior at Bluefield State College in West Virginia, where as the student government association president she has spearheaded the celebration of UN Day, International Women's Day, as well as the first-ever recycling initiatives on campus.
But it was something else that pushed her to apply to the U.N. Youth Assembly. Jelena was part of the American-Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange from 2012 to 2013. As part of the program she attended Civic Education Week in Washington, DC.
Jelena, pictured near the Reflection Pool in Washington D.C., while attending Civic Education Week
Nearly five years later, Jelena saw that her Civ Ed Week roommate, a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program alumna, had been a part of the UN Youth Assembly.
"Talking to her encouraged me," Jelena said. "I was able to apply thanks to the network we have through the YES and FLEX and A-SMYLE programs."
In her application, she talked about the 1,064 pounds of paper products collected through a one-week book drive she organized on campus, the grant she wrote to start a paper-recycling program, and the recycling committee she formed. She also talked about her hopes for improved recycling and climate change initiatives in her home country and her career aspirations.
"I want to have a career in diplomacy and with the UN," she said. "Someday I hope to work on conflict resolution international conflict resolution with a specific focus in combating trafficking in persons."
Her participation in the U.N. Youth Assembly will come in the midst of an internship with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. She has always had an interest in political science, which Civic Education Week confirmed, she explained.
"In less than a week, I'll be starting my internship at the US Senate," she said. "That's a dream that the A-SMYLE made happen for me."
About FLEX and A-SMYLE
The Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) is a competitive, merit-based scholarship program funded by the US Department of State. FLEX students who pass multiple rounds of testing earn a scholarship to spend an academic year in the United States living with a volunteer host family and attending a US high school. Since 1993, FLEX has provided scholarships to over 26,000 secondary school students from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
FLEX served as the model for the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, begun in 2003, and for the American-Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange (A-SMYLE) program, begun in 2005. Students from Serbia and Montenegro participated under the auspices of the A-SMYLE program from 2005-2015 and are now part of FLEX.