The American Corner in Banja Luka: Education and Help for Young People

Photo: private archive

The American Corner in Banja Luka is a space where workshops are held from September to June with the maximum number of participants of all ages. There, young people have the opportunity to learn and read books in English, as well as to volunteer, after which they receive a certificate that can be used to apply for a job. The American Corner in Banja Luka was founded 18 years ago as a result of cooperation between the National University Library of the Republic of Srpska and the American Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

As explained in the American Corner in Banja Luka, the space is designed as a “smart space,” where everything can be assembled and disassembled, in accordance with the workshops that are held. It contains a library with books in English, drones, iPads, 3D printers, and more. Also, it offers many resources for information about the United States of America. All workshops and seminars are free of charge and there is no age limit for participants.

“As for the workshops, the calendar is different for each month. From September to the end of June, the workshops are not repeated, and the only one held during the school year is the English language workshop,” said Bojana Lekić, General Director of the American Corner.

As she pointed out, they offer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) workshops that vary from month to month, as well as other workshops from different fields such as entrepreneurship, economics, career guidance for high school students, online business, and soon, nutrition, volunteer programs, and the like. “Our trainings are designed to help young people find a job after their completion,” Lekić added. 

The interior of the American corner in Banja Luka (Photo: private archive)

It’s difficult to say which workshop is the most popular because, according to Lekić, “they are all booked and go really well, so registrations often close earlier than planned.” In the course of one month, the American Corner in Banja Luka is visited by about 1,000 – 1,200 people. 

The Corner started a volunteer program before COVID-19 in order to help young people understand their abilities and wants, and thus more easily express themselves and find different opportunities. Lekić explains that this program teaches them how to contribute to the community, what the community is, and how they can help as individuals or as a group. 

In general, Lekić believes that young people are disappointed by the system in Bosnia and Herzegovina and have no one to talk to. “We have teenagers, aged 15 to 18, who have brilliant ideas, but there is no one to listen to them. That’s where the biggest problem arises, and that’s where my volunteer team originates,” said Lekić, noting that volunteers also receive certificates from the American Embassy which verifies their volunteer work at the American Corner in Banja Luka. 

Rade Milaković, a long-term volunteer, states that he liked the principle of the work and the themes of the workshops, which is why he decided to become part of the American Corner in Banja Luka.

STEM workshops and preparations for taking the TOEFL exam combine into numerous activities of the American Corner in Banja Luka. (Photo: private archive)

“I would definitely single out a series of ‘STEAM Experts Talks’ where experts from these fields talked to young people about their professions and the life paths that led them there. As a high school senior who is considering different fields for undergraduate studies, this was very helpful. I would also like to mention the TOEFL test, which helped me get a reference point for my current knowledge of the English language and made it easier to prepare for it, which I need for further studies,” said Milaković. He pointed out that he also attended two professional orientation workshops for high school students to help him decide about his field of study.

The calendar of the American Corner in Banja Luka is filled until May 2023. The plan for the next period is to prepare for and hold the upcoming workshops. 

“I would tell young people to come to us because there are ten Corners in BiH and each of them offers something of its own. What we can certainly offer here is safety and the implementation of their ideas, so that they can express their opinions, that we are here to educate, help and provide information,” Lekić concluded.

Dunja Rujević is a trained Balkan Diskurs youth correspondent from Banja Luka. She graduated from the Medical High School. She gained her first journalistic experience at eTrafika, where she worked as a volunteer journalist.

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