DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The city of Dayton held a farewell event for Bosnian students. They have spent the last couple of weeks learning Dayton’s special connection to their country.
Nearly 30 years ago, Dayton was the site where the Peace Accords were crafted to end the war in their homeland. Students from Bosnia and Herzegovina have different backgrounds and perspectives on years of struggles, but they’re united in their determination to change their communities.
Fauk Zahirovic’s journey to the US is winding down. He is heading home with far more friends than he had just weeks ago. Eighteen students were strangers before the trip, but are now going home friends.
“Just a great experience,” says Zahirovic. “And I can say that I will miss all of those people that I will never, never probably see again, but still always have like a place in my heart.”
The Youth Leadership Program brought together people from thousands of miles away learning different cultures and hoping that leads to understanding.
A camping trip was one of the final events on what has been a memorable journey.
“At the end of the day, we all just like, got together and talked about experiences and I think we find support in each other,” Zahirovic said.
The leadership program is a cooperative agreement between the US embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia and the city of Dayton. It is designed to help the youth of the country explore the special connection with Dayton from the historic Dayton Peace Accords in 1995.
“Chance for the students and teachers to experience us American life, to explore ideals of democracy, civic engagement, community engagement,” said Miranda Brooks, stateside project manager, Miranda Brooks.
A highlight was touring where the peace agreement was signed, which is a step back in time for Nivena Raspopivich.
“I felt really close to my roots and the things my older members of my family felt, which was certainly a very important experience. I think it reminded all of the participants about the importance of being together,” said Nivena Raspopivich, student from Banja Luka, Bosnia.
It was a packed schedule and the students are united. Students are hoping to apply what they have learned here back in their home town. The 2023 group is tackling hunger, driving safety and also to provide kids a place to go after school.
The students will be visiting to New York City before flying back to make an impact in their communities.