The YaLa Academy’s Aileen Getty School of Citizen Journalism is an initiative launched in partnership with the U.S. Institute of Peace and the European Union’s Peace building Initiative. It provides Middle Eastern and African youth the opportunity to join its free online program for one semester of media training, conducted by leading journalists and new media experts, as well as to gain a peace building experience. The program teaches journalism and 21st century activism, focusing on topics such as conflict resolution, social justice, ethics of journalism, and more. Luckily, I once came across a Facebook post of its online application published by the Algerian Youth Voices program with which I am involved. It seemed interesting, so I rushed to apply for it; fortunately, I got accepted few days later. During the program I had deep conversations with people from the MENA region, I explored various cultures, and understood different perspectives. I also had the chance to sharpen my journalistic skills and share my thoughts and stories with the world. Below is an article I wrote for them.
After you read the article, please check out Shaping Young Alergian Minds, a program I co-founded which aims to empower inquisitive and disadvantaged teenagers who are keen on learning and improving different skills.
When I was younger, my parents got divorced. With my mother we had to relocate to another far away city, where it was so hard for us to live. I faced many challenges there. I lost the life that I had before and all my old friends. Simply: my childhood was very difficult, filled with big problems.
But in fact, the real difficulty was that all that happened affected me negatively. I became a very shy girl. I felt weak, and I lacked confidence. That led me to have a big fear of talking in public. I could not tell my opinion and defend my ideas in debates. I could not share my feelings and gain self-confidence again. I stayed at home avoiding people.
One day, I realized that I did not lose only my childhood, but I was losing my adulthood too by doing that. Other teenagers were enjoying life, learning, and living, but I was just staying inside remembering what happened in the past. I realized that I did not want to lose anything else, so I knew I had to overcome this difficulty, and that I needed to make new plans for my life.
To solve this situation, I took a step to keep myself busy and began to learn a new language. I participated in an American program called Access Microscholarship to learn English, but English was not the only thing that I learned; my participation has made a huge change in my personality. I became more open-minded because of the open debates that we had, which taught me that all people face difficulties throughout their lives. We also had teachers who supported us to speak freely, and we learned to work as a team, which had a great impact on me.
When I first joined the program it was hard for me to interact with the members of the group. But then I gained some confidence and believed that I could do it. As a result, I challenged myself, and I focused on my target. I was always seeking to learn how to interact better with people, to understand them, and to work together for a better result.
The time passed, and I made beautiful memories with many friends; I got used to that school and all the people there. We worked and studied hard all together until we reached the end on the program when we prepared the graduation ceremony. This time, I realized my courage and pushed myself to take another decision: I talked with my teacher and told her that I wanted to lead a group, and fortunately she agreed immediately. I formed a group of seven people. I introduced myself with confidence and presented them my agenda. We started working. I was leading the group explaining, guiding, and supporting. The day of the ceremony, I walked with courageous steps. I spoke in front of the audience, and we presented the show that we had been working on. My family and my teachers were so proud of me.
What I learned from this experience is that we should not allow the negative things that happened to us in the past ruin our present. Instead of that, we should make it the source of our power. We should believe that we are strong enough and capable of making changes. It is never too late or impossible to achieve something better, and the most important thing is that you can never reach those goals or make those changes if you avoid life or people.
I can say this experience has changed me in so many ways. Now I feel stronger. I overcame this challenge and my fear, I became optimistic, easy going, open minded, and most importantly, I became a leader. Since that time I believe that educational programs can make a positive impact on our personalities.
After this, I decided to take on new challenges, and live many other experiences. I participated in another program called Global UGRAD, to study one semester in the U.S. Thanks to this program, I learned a lot, improved my skills, and strengthened my personality. I became successful and happy, and I could guide my life towards a totally different path. It all started with one brave decision, which was to get out of my shell. That’s why it is important to never be afraid to open up… it may open many doors for you to live a better life.
Written by Bahdja Sehli, Algeria, Global UGRAD 16-17 at Castleton University