At the end of each program year, A-SMYLE (American Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange) Placement Organizations and Local Coordinators nominate A-SMYLE participants who have acted as leaders in their host communities and have demonstrated leadership skills throughout their time in the U.S. for the Distinguished Leader Award. The American Councils office in Washington DC reviews these nominations, and, in conjunction with the required leadership activities, selects students who have demonstrated the most outstanding leadership qualities to receive awards. Diversity of accomplishments, skills, and experiences for these awards are looked at and we were delighted to see our own Vesna Zunic received second place honors.
Vesna Zunic is an A-SMYLE student from Montenegro who was placed at IMS for the 2012-13 school year. Local Coordinator Sherrie Nisly said that “service leadership” was Vesna’s major focus during her time in Iowa. She completed over 100 hours of volunteer service in projects that helped hungry children, residents at a local nursing home, a thrift store that gives money to families in the developing world, and she spent a week working at a mission in Chicago helping the hungry and homeless. Along with two of her clustermates, Vesna organized and carried out a food drive fundraiser for the local food pantry. Even with all of her attention to service, Vesna was able to maintain high grades, participate in the Physics Olympics, attend the Iowa International Student Leadership Conference and received the World Link Student of the Month award for February. Vesna also received an athletic letter for Cross Country.
In her nomination, Sherri shared that Vesna connected deeply with her dual-placement host sister from China, “took her under her wing and coached her in every area, loving her unconditionally.” Overall, “[Vesna] is an amazing girl filled with compassion and sensitivity for others. She demonstrates a maturity beyond her years; yet, she is not in the front seeking publicity and fame. Her service comes from her heart, not for awards.”
Vesna stayed with local host family Galen and Gloria Yoder of Wellman and will be returning to Montenegro soon.