Katie Wroblewski (Macedonia)

Katie Wroblewski (Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), and the Youth Cultural Centre (YCC)). Katie is from Buchanan, Michigan. She received her BA with highest honors in history from the University of Michigan. After graduation, she spent a year at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. Katie then continued her study of European history at Indiana University-Bloomington, where she earned her MA in 2006. At the time of her fellowship Katie was studying for a JD degree at Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana.


23 Jul

It’s hard to feel motivated to do much of anything in this weather. With the high temperatures this week reaching 110 degrees, it zaps all of my energy just to walk to the store for water or to a café for air conditioning. Things have slowed down drastically at work; it’s hard to plan projects for volunteers when it’s too hot to work outdoors. All of the events that we have hosted over the past two weeks have been at night, including a rock concert that featured a young band from Bitola. There was a high turnout for the concert – Bitola experiences a large influx of young people this time of year due to the local university’s summer institute – and only minimal complaint from the neighbors.

One of the ways that I try to escape the heat is by going to the pastry shop down the street from our office. I met the girl who works there a few weeks ago when Maja and I stopped by her high school, Taki Daskalo, to deliver some paperwork. (The school’s volunteer club received a small grant to cover photocopying expenses.) It’s a real eye opener when you enter a Macedonian school: the outside walls are covered in graffiti, the inside is barren, the furniture is in disrepair, and the windows are broken. And, yet, most young people speak English so well that communication is never a problem (schools start teaching English from the first grade on). I wish I could say the same about my Spanish.

In addition to serving up some of the finest éclairs I’ve ever had, and I know my pastries, we talked for a few minutes about life in Bitola. Later on, I spoke with Maja about the condition of the school, which is likely in much better shape than most of the other schools in the area, and she showed me some flyers that some of the school’s students had produced. Late in the spring, just before I arrived, a group of students from Taki Daskalo had organized an event to highlight the deteriorating condition of the school’s athletic facilities. The flyer shows a student shooting a basketball at a hoop that is missing a rim, and below the picture the caption reads “Where can we play sports?” Clearly, some of these students have a knack for marketing.

Students also organized athletic competitions and then sent out invitations to their local representatives and to the Agency for Youth and Sport and the Ministry of Education, and several media outlets covered the event.

One can only hope that these students – over 100 of them participated in the event – had a positive experience lobbying for change. After all, there is no better way to get young people involved in their community than to find an issue that all young people can understand: the need to participate in sports.

Posted By Katie Wroblewski (Macedonia)

Posted Jul 23rd, 2014

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