Chargé d’Affaires, Nicholas J. Giacobbe, Jr. Remarks at the BRIDGE Program Launch Event

Chargé d’Affaires, Nicholas J. Giacobbe, Jr. Remarks at the BRIDGE Program Launch Event, October 8, 2021

Prime Minister Kurti, Deputy Minister Maloku Berdynaj, Mayor Kastrati, President Shahrabi, municipal representatives, project partners, honored guests and media, good afternoon.  It’s a pleasure to be here for the formal opening of the BRIDGE program.

When the U.S. Embassy envisioned this program, we saw it as a way to use English as a common language, encouraging interethnic communication and deepening ties among Kosovan youth.  We recognized that there was a decreasing amount of contact, among youth, between ethnicities, and that the lack of a shared language often separated people, making individuals isolated both from each other, and from their potentials to be change makers in their communities.  We wanted to bridge that divide – to connect people and to strengthen their relationships and to broaden their futures by building their communities of learning.  That is why we chose to call this program BRIDGE.  I am confident the BRIDGE Program will help do that – it will help build solid connections between Kosovan youth of diverse backgrounds – and, I am happy to report that through our partnership with RIT this program has become much more than that.

RIT has designed BRIDGE as not just an English learning program and a way to encourage more contact between members of Kosovo’s rich multicultural society, but also as a platform for students to gain the skills necessary to pursue a university-level education.  The program goes beyond the skills of English and critical thinking, which are necessary for a university education and focuses on innovations to learn math, technology, and the key tools for entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic activism.

Mastering these skills will help BRIDGE students compete for professional and educational opportunities in Kosovo and abroad.

We at the U.S. Embassy believe – and I know that you agree–that education is the backbone of democracy and critical to growing the economy.  Educational development has always been a priority for the U.S. Mission in Kosovo.  We are confident students who participate in this program will be better able to reach their goals, and therefore be better prepared to contribute to Kosovo’s future economic prosperity and democratic governance and rule of law.

Working in six municipalities – Gracanica, Kamenica, Mitrovica, Peja, Prizren, and Sterpce – the BRIDGE Program will be a great contributor to developing the next generation of Kosovo’s future leaders, building a joint identity for Kosovans, and encouraging a stronger sense among youth from all backgrounds that Kosovo truly is their home.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak here today.  I look forward to our conversations afterwards, and to seeing this program blossom and the students and faculty thrive in this program and all their future endeavors.