Bosnian students visit Dayton, learn about history, culture

A group of 18 students from Bosnia-Herzegovina and their three teachers have been visiting Dayton since Oct. 21 to learn about how the city and take lessons back to their own cities.

Dayton is sister cities with Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the students are touring the region as part of the Youth Leadership Program, which is funded by a $120,000 grant from the U.S. State Department and Dayton Mediation Center runs the program.

Miranda Brooks of the Dayton Mediation Center said the first cohort came in 2019, and four cohorts of students have come to Dayton since then, including two in 2022.

In 1995, the Dayton Peace Accords were negotiated at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, ending the three and a half year long Bosnian War that occurred after the former Yugoslavia, which was previously controlled by the Soviet Union, collapsed, according to the Dayton Peace Museum. The war was the first since World War II to be determined genocidal and some of the participants were charged with war crimes.

“What I’ve learned through this program, is because of the post conflict landscape in Bosnia, it takes this program to bring this group of people here to a table to have a conversation in Dayton that they would or could possibly never have in their home country,” Brooks said. “I think that alone says a lot about the potential of the program.”

The students have so far visited The Foodbank, Dayton History, the Air Force Museum, Sinclair Community College, Troy and Oakwood high schools and gave a presentation Wednesday night at Dayton City Commission. They are living with 12 host families around the region.

Commissioner Shenise Turner-Sloss suggested that local students, particularly students from Dayton Public Schools, could benefit from a similar program sending students to Bosnia.

The current grant from the state department only goes to fund the students coming to Dayton, but previously students from the Dayton area have gone overseas to Bosnia on exchange in 2017 and 2018, according to Dayton Sister Cities Committee.

Mustafa Mutapcic, one of the students from Bosnia, said he and other students didn’t know what to expect.

“There were many new things to us because new cultures are different. Everything is different to us. And it’s definitely an amazing experience to see what does life look like somewhere else to new people that have different mentality than our people,” he said.

Commissioner Matt Joseph said he hoped the students can get something out of the program.

“I just want to say that a lot of us up here and out there in the audience got their starts in careers when they had an extraordinary experience somewhere doing something like this.” Joseph said. “So you may not know it yet, but when you get back, something may strike you, like wow, this this has really made a change in my life.”

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