Empower Students through Leadership Training

by Bulgarian English Speech and Debate Tournaments Foundation
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Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Empower Students through Leadership Training
Vidin Project
Vidin Project


Dear friends and supporters,

Our Student Leaders began 2022 with a bang! Not only have they produced creative hype videos with their teams for the regional tournaments, but each SL has been hard at work on their community projects, making a significant impact on the people around them. In March, SLs from Vidin held a weekend long event in honor of International Womens Day, hosting talks, markets, and a movie viewing. Throughout the spring, SLs from Haskovo have been educating their community on wildlife conservation and zoos through different events and meetings. We are so proud of our amazing community!

Our SLs from Varna's HSM "D-r Petar Beron" created a book exchange in their community in order to connect readers with similar interests in these isolating times. At Lovech's FLHS Ekzarh Yosif I, our SLs held a series of hybrid workshops on a wide variety of topics such as craft-making and community building based on community needs. Team Plovdiv's SL centered her community project around mental health resources for Bulgarian high schoolers, partnering with her school's psychologist. At Ekzarh Yosif FLS in Razgrad, SLs have held a series of fundraisers and events to connect students from their school with residents of their local nursing home.

While working on their projects, SLs also competed at our tournaments, and helped their team with practice and logistics. At every tournament, we’ve had SLs give welcome and encouraging speeches at the opening ceremonies. At Spring West Martin and Beatris addressed the students, while Lili sang and played the Ukelele. During Spring East tournaments SLs Kadir and Kristina from Razgrad performed a nice duo as a way to excite the students.

Qualifying SLs for the national tournament, will get to brag about their project to more than 200 other students, as we are holding our first in-person tournament since the start of the pandemic! The entire group of the 39 SLs will have one final meeting at the program wrap-up seminar taking place in Sofia at the end of April. The winning community project will be announced then by a panel of judges. 


Thank you for continuing to support our students! 

 

best regards,

Lina Jarad

Kadir Razgrad
Kadir Razgrad
SL Meeting
SL Meeting

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This year’s Student Leader (SL) Program accepted 39 nominated students from 23 schools across Bulgaria. The students are to assist create teams that will compete at BEST Foundation’s speech and debate tournaments, as well as help the teams with practice sessions, be the link between competitors and teacher coaches and work on various projects throughout the year. 

From September 24 through September 26, we hosted the SL Training at Hotel “Forum”, Sofia. The event’s goal was to prepare the new student leaders of the speech and debate teams in schools across Bulgaria for the year ahead.  The training focused on teaching valuable lessons in leadership, communication, time management and problem-solving and to help the student leaders create a strong community for the year to come.

“The SL training was my highlight of the month. It helped me improve my planning in detail and time management skills, as well as gave me an opportunity to work on my anxiety when it comes to presenting a project in front of an audience. It also gave me a better understanding of the importance of having a sustainable community project.” – Katerina, HSM “D-r Petar Beron”, Varna

A large emphasis was put on initiating and implementing community projects which would help the students contribute to their local community outside of the BEST world. Student leaders were divided into groups and had to come up with their own mini-project under the guidance of a management team member. Then they presented it in front of everybody and were given valuable feedback. 

In addition, we had the honour to welcome several guest speakers such as volunteers from the Arete Youth Foundation that told us more about the community projects they create, Dr Harvey from American University in Bulgaria who led an improvisation workshop, our debate coordinator, Julia, who reached out to the SLs in a discussion concerning the debates for the upcoming year and Kristiyan who talked about the YES program and the opportunity of studying in the US for a year in high school.

The SL program aims to teach students how to lead a team and make a positive impact on the community. These goals are achieved through attending an SL training, completing two pre-tournament projects and a community project. Awards are given at the end of the year for the most outstanding performances. Most importantly, the program creates a sense of belonging among the SLs which is vital for the BEST community.

Currently, the students have submitted their proposals for the community projects they will implement in the Spring semester. The topics range from environment care, music education, lectures on higher education topics, and entertainment. One of the proposals that stand out is by Student Leaders from Prof. Dr. Asen Zlatarov Foreign Language High School in Haskovo: educating the city on animal rights and working with the local zoo to improve the quality of animals’ lives.

We look forward to working with the students and seeing their projects come to fruition in May.

 

Thank you for your continued support and we wish you very happy holidays!

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In May, fourty three student leaders gathered online, to present the hard work they have done throughout the semester creating and implementing their community projects. The students came from 29 schools in 22 cities across Bulgaria. Their community projects covered a wide variety of topics such as: friend matching program, information video of a town, supporting a new city library by book donations, podcast program of a school's success stories, visual art and literature fesitval, a board game club to reduce stress, enhancing a school's website. The closing seminar was led by the Student Leader Coordinator and Intern and several BEST Foundation management team members who acted like judges. Student leaders presented their projects in the format of power points or video presentations followed by a five minute Q&A.

Presiyana and Tatyana from Geo Milev Foreign Language High School in Dobrich were awarded the student leader of the year award for succesfully leading their team and creating a wonderful team spirit, as well as submitting everything on time.  The Community Project of the Year award was presented to Anita and Zornitsa from Yordan Radichkov Foreign Language High School in Vidin who organized a Spring Spirit Fest at the cultural heritage site Baba Vida, which was aimed at supporting the local community from vendors and artists. The event was held at a fortress and held various workshops, a bazaar, a performance stage as well as food and drink vendors. 

Certificates of program completion were awarded and sent to 43 out of 62 students enrolled in the Student Leadership Program. 

Plans have started for the initiation of the new program, and 37 new students have been nominated to join the program with the initial training which happens in September. 

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Student Leaders (SLs) at BEST Foundation who come from different cities across Bulgaria have shown an outstanding performance during this academic year. As mentioned in our previous report, in the Fall we held our first two regional tournaments were SLs managed to assist their teams to prepare and present their best pieces and also to create a grea team spirit that contributed to the success of the virtual tournaments. This semester's SL project was to creae a video that shows how hyped their teams are for the tournament. We are including a few links to some videos from this semester.

What is worth mentioning, due to the American teachers being sent home due to the pandemic, near 10 SLs took on an additional role as coaches, so they not only had to motivate their teams, but they also handled all matters of tournament registration through using various softwares and also managed payment transfers. We were amazed by the diligence shown by the student leaders in helping their schools.

Besides acting as team leaders, SLs have a major project assignment called the connected to the wider community outside their team. The students submitted their proposals in December and later had individual meetings with the Student Leader Program coordinator to polish their projects and start the implementation phase. In May all SLs will present their community projects and outcomes in front of a jury, and a top project will be selected and awarded a trophy. Some of the projects include: revamping a school's website, building a relaxation zone at school, an online platform for local artists, revamped children's playground and more. Sta tuned for next report where we announce the winning project.

Thank you for reading along and please continue to donate to this project so we can continue developing those future leaders of Bulgaria.

Best regards and be safe!

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Community project discussion
Community project discussion

Dear Friends,

We hope that this message finds you safe, healthy and strong!

As we wrap up the Fall semester, we are happy to update you with some of the activities that we have achieved thus far in relation to this project "Empowering students through Leadership Training". 

The start of the semester was very busy, in September and October we held training sessions for: the management team volunteers who will run the events this year, coach volunteers who will be coaching students on speech & debate and preparing for competitions, and Student Leaders who in addition to helping the coaches with training & tournament registration logistics, also learned about project management and developing a community project. 

This year for the management team training we incorporated mental wellness and meditation sessions which focused on how long-term volunteers can care for themselves while offering service to others, a first of it's kind initiative and very timely for these difficult times we live in. The staff members who were not able to attend physically in Sofia, joined us by Zoom or were sent recorded sessions.

Our main coach training was held in 51st School in Sofia, with two more sessions conducted virtually for coaches from far away cities.

The Student Leader training seminars were divided into two regions also for the first time of the history of BEST, in order to limit travel time for students and thus limit exposure to unhealthy situations. We did receive parental consent for each student to attend the weekend-long seminars which were held in Sofia and Varna. Even though the situation was very stable Covid-wise back in September and there were not many regulations imposed, we took our own measures by doing periodic disinfection, temperature measurement, distancing, and imposed a mask rule indoor and outdoor. Our students were amazing by complying with the rules and enjoyed all the lectures and workshops we had planned for them like an improv theater workshop, project management foundations, and a guest singer performance. The students were tasked with coming up with mock community projects and presented them to their peers for feedback.

After training the staff volunteers, coaches, and Student Leaders, we held our first ever VIRTUAL regional tournaments resulting in the participation of 300 student competitors and 100 volunteer judges. The number is 50% of our usual attendance in face-to-face tournaments, which is mainly due to students not having access to good equipment and/or internet connection. The several surveys we have done since the last one in the summer, indicate that 30% of our students don't have access to a laptop or PC at home, and we are hoping that by collecting more donations or collaborating with local companies that we can bridge this gap and increase the participation rate in virtual events.

The night before the tournament our student leaders had a special social event over zoom before the start of the tournament, they shared poster designs they created with their teams and gave each other pep talks before the big tournament day. They are now in the process of submitting their project proposals for their Community Projects and we are very excited to learn what ideas they have for helping their immediate communities in the Spring Semester.

Despite all the positive results, we did face an unpleasant situation and lost half of our volunteer staff who had to return home to the U.S. due to the pandemic. Lucky for us their love to our organization enabled them to continue help with tournament operations until December, but unfortunately, we will need to recruit and train new long-term volunteers to replace them for the second semester. 

Thanks to your generous donations, we were able to cover many of this semester's training costs (without being able to offer technology scholarships that we had hoped to provide). We encourage you to share our cause with family and friends so we can continue our events and offer more support to these amazing young people who are resilient, positive and adding such important value to their schools and cities. We also realized that our volunteer staff has also limited access to various technology and digital tools that have proven to be necessary for business and so we are hoping to be fully equipped by the end of this academic year to have smoother operations and peace of mind to our staff and coaches/SLs.

Thank you very much for being part of our community, for reading this long report, and we wish you and your families a safe and healthy holiday season.

 

best regards,

Lina Jarad

Impactful project-lecturer
Impactful project-lecturer
Lecture Varna - finding your passion project
Lecture Varna - finding your passion project
SLs Varna
SLs Varna
Coach training
Coach training
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Bulgarian English Speech and Debate Tournaments Foundation

Location: Sofia - Bulgaria
Website:
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Project Leader:
Lina Jarad
Sofia, Bulgaria
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