Ambassador Kosnett’s Remarks at the Junior Geeks Launch, February 21, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen, minister, distinguished guests. Good Afternoon! It is a pleasure to be here for the formal launch of Junior Geeks. I eagerly accepted the invitation to join you all here today because I truly believe supporting education initiatives – particularly STEM education – is critical to Kosovo’s success.
Hands-on STEM education programs like Junior Geeks give students practical tools and new skills to pursue advanced studies or be competitive in the job market. But more importantly, Junior Geeks will encourage students to be creative, to think critically, and to develop problem solving skills that are applicable far beyond the computer lab.
The U.S. government’s work in Kosovo is centered around three key themes: Peace, Justice, and Prosperity. The students who participate in Junior Geeks will be better prepared to contribute to Kosovo’s development in all three of these areas.
The connection to prosperity is clear. Junior Geeks is focused on the hard skills that students will need to contribute to an ever-changing, tech-focused economy. With the support of ICK and mentors, students will hone some of the attributes necessary to become successful entrepreneurs and create jobs.
But STEM education also contributes to creating peace and justice in Kosovo.
Technology is critical to transparency. Tools like the USAID-supported Open Procurement Transparency Portal give citizens direct access to government procurement information. Online platforms provide a way for the public to hold the government accountable and contribute to overall rule of law in Kosovo.
As you heard from the organizers, Junior Geeks is designed to be an inclusive platform, bringing young men and women together across geographic and ethnic boundaries. This will help ensure a broader segment of Kosovo’s society has access to tools that will allow you to succeed in the job market. If we want Kosovo to remain a source of peace and stability in the region, broad economic growth that includes men and women, and all of Kosovo’s communities, is critical.
I am happy to see the Junior Geeks organizers are practicing that inclusivity, with two women on their three-person team. We often think STEM careers are male-dominated but women have always played an important role in some of the world’s most important scientific achievements. So I am really pleased to see so many young women here today.
Finally, I want to congratulate Shpend, Zana, and Eldita for organizing such an important program. The State Department received over 1300 applications for “Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund” projects and we funded less than 1% of those projects worldwide. That is a tremendous testament to the talent we all know is here in Kosovo.
It’s fantastic to see alumni of U.S. government exchange programs following through on your commitment to use what you learned in the United States to contribute to development here at home.
To the teachers and mentors, thank you for contributing your talent, skills, and energy to the program. And to all the students, I encourage you to embrace the opportunity to learn something new, even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard.
Best wishes for a wonderful program.