Richard J. Schmierer, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and David A. Staples, Outreach Coordinator, from the State of Illinois visited us at IIT last Thursday to meet some of the Syrian students, and I was lucky enough to be there.
During that visit, they learned more about us and IIT’s Syrian initiative. On the other hand, they discussed with us any issues or challenges we are having here, and then explored the different available supporting resources in Illinois, like the Department of State itself, the Syrian American Council, and some others.
David told us about the Active Citizen Summit program, which is sponsored in partnership between the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) and the United States Department of State. It is a 22-day program for 18 young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa. And according to ACYPL’s website:1 “The project will involve young economic and social entrepreneurs and civil society leaders who will spend 16 days in Chicago, Illinois participating in trainings and internships, and 5 days in Washington, DC for follow-on project planning and reflection.”
Richard and David invited us to attend a networking event for the new cohort of the Active Citizen Summit on the same day, which took place in the 1871 building, a place for start-up companies sponsored by Google.
In that night, I had the chance to meet many enthusiastic and brilliant people from the Middle East. They all have a lot of achievements in their lives, which was the reason why they got selected out of a huge number of applicants. They weren’t clear yet about their projects, because it was their day one in the program, and they just arrived in the U.S. I also had the chance to meet some different professional people, from big companies like Boeing, who were there to support these young entrepreneurs.
As I attend more of these networking events, I realize how important and beneficial they are; not only for potential job opportunities, but more importantly as connections you have to support you in your life. In Syria, connections also play a major role in hiring and other opportunities, but unfortunately in a bad way, where relatives and close friends to governors, political leaders, and rich businessmen get those opportunities even if they don’t deserve them. However, in the future Syria, I hope these networking events will take place and change the traditional approaches.