Written by Marija Vasilevska
The Macedonian American Alumni Association (MAAA) celebrated its 20th birthday. A performance by Vlatko Stefanovski and Andrew Aycoth, from the Ohio State University, video greetings from MAAA members, a short overview of the past 20 years seen “through the eyes” of the current and previous MAAA`s presidents and many photos from past actions – were all part of the online concert streaming on the (MAAA) Facebook Live platform on December 17, 2020 under the motto “Let us celebrate together” (link). During the online event, MAAA’s functioning and development throughout the years was presented. Moreover, the viewers could witness the well-developed relationship of partnership and support between MAAA and the Embassy of the United States of America.
MAAA was founded in 2000 with the support of the Embassy of the United States of America in our country with the aim to serve as an umbrella organization for the Macedonian participants in US government sponsored academic, exchange and professional development programs. It is an organization committed towards strengthening the relationship between the Republic of North Macedonia and the USA, promotion of bilateral cooperation in the areas of education, culture and arts and support of knowledge transfer initiatives between the citizens and organizations from both countries. Through its activities, initiatives and projects MAAA tends to promote freedom of action, humanity, respect and mutual understanding. The organization which only had a few members 20 years ago, is now an organization of more than 3000 members. Nowadays, MAAA’s members, professionals in various fields, are its most valuable assets.
In his video address, the first president of MAAA, Prof Dr. Doncho Donev said: “The initiative for establishment of an association of US Exchange programs Alumni in Macedonia was presented and supported in the fall 1999 during the conference held in Washington DC celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship program. Three of us, alumni, were discussing the creation of an alumni association in Macedonia. After coming back to Macedonia, we started our activities towards implementation of this initiative with great enthusiasm and commitment and it was supported by the Embassy of the United States of America in the Republic of North Macedonia and the Public Affairs Office within the Embassy”.
The basis of all MAAA’s initiatives is the belief that through proven leadership it can make a difference locally, regionally, and nationally, and even internationally. The photos presented during the live Facebook concert showed clearly the involvement and commitment of MAAA members in the organization’s activities and initiatives. Their happy faces were a reflection of the positive change the organization had made in their lives and their willingness for further growth.
In his video message, among other things, the second president of MAAA, Prof. Dr. Atanas Kochov focused on the initiation of the Youth Exchange Students’ program in our country: “We were really proud to start the Youth Exchange Students` (YES) Program in Macedonia, to invite students from high schools from the United States to stay for one academic year in Macedonia and to study in English or also in Macedonian. We have started with one student, after that with five students, and nowadays we have almost 50 students each year from the United States studying in Skopje in different high schools in Macedonian or also in English language. Which means we are creating new ambassadors for our country in the United States of America”. He also added that the European Network of Alumni Association was established on initiative of the Macedonian American Alumni Association”.
In the past 20 years, MAAA has been following the new trends in the digital world and has transformed and opened up for new activities and programs, and cooperation between North Macedonia and the USA. In addition to this, MAAA spread its activities on an international level through fostering active communication with the international community. The third MAAA president, Prof. Dr. Mišo Dokmanovic emphasised this in his address to MAAA members: “We have developed a new visual identity for the organization, new logo, new website, Facebook page but also created new strategic initiatives which were aimed around at the Alumni community. In that sense we have created the annual Alumni award and organized two fundraising concerts. We cooperated closely with the European Network of American Alumni Organization in Europe and Asia- an umbrella organization of 68 different organizations in this region of the world. With our friends from Greece, we organized two important events in Athens and Skopje in 2019 which have established a new cooperation between different partners from this side of the border”.
The commitment and involvement of MAAA in the development of the society has actively continued during the past year, although it has been the most challenging year for everyone. During these difficult times MAAA has proven to be a leader in the society. The current president MA Verica Jordanova emphasized MAAA’s vitality and agility in her video address: “Covid-19 changed our lives, our professional plans, and MAAA`s Executive Board plans as well. However, we managed to inspire our members to organize many online activities and actively participate in the ones MAAA organized in the course of the past few months. The Covid crisis urged our members to use their knowledge and courage and help our society to overcome this unfortunate situation better. Throughout their active participation and involvement in lowering the effect of the Covid-19 consequences, scientists, doctors, university professors, researchers, mayors, managers of institutions and journalists were wholeheartedly dedicated in helping their local and global communities during the hard times”.
The US Embassy in our country is selflessly supporting the organization and is dedicated towards encouraging many new members to join MAAA. Mr. Luke Zahner, the Public Affairs Officer in the US Embassy in North Macedonia, has confirmed the long-lasting partnership and mutual support in his video message, emphasizing especially how proud he feels from MAAA`s dedicated work: “Your energy and enthusiasm are inspiration and have made this Alumni Association one of the most effective and active alumni associations in the world”.
Happy 20th Birthday Macedonian American Alumni Association!