WASHINGTON, DC - On a recent autumn holiday weekend, nine bright and energetic teenagers gathered in Washington, DC for the Second Annual Ukrainian American Youth Association (CYM) Leadership Seminar. During the three day conference, the participants’ busy schedules were filled with thought-provoking discussions, challenging teamwork exercises, lectures by prominent community figures, and even a moonlight tour of the nation’s capital. The goal of the seminar was two-fold: to equip the leaders of tomorrow with strong leadership skills, and to encourage the young adults to become more active in CYM and in their community.
The conference focused on leadership, marketing in organizations, project management, and branding. Speakers included Andriy Bihun, Director of Youth for the Ukrainian American Youth Association; Eugenia Kuzmowycz-Blahy, Chief Operating Officer of Self Reliance NY Federal Credit Union; Jerry Dutkewych, Director of Country Relations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation; Diana Howansky, Staff Associate at the Ukrainian Studies Program at Columbia University, Mykola Hryckowian, Co-founder of the Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations; and Bohdan Shevchik, Financial Advisor at UBS and former General Manager of Coca-Cola Ukraine. Key in organizing the successful seminar were Andriy Bihun, Lida Mykytyn, Eugenia Kuzmowycz-Blahy, Marta Matselioukh, and Lesia Harhaj.
Sessions of the seminar took place at the Washington offices of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. At the opening of the seminar, John Kun, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation Vice President and Chief Operating Officer addressed the students, speaking about the Foundation’s work, and encouraged the participants to become more involved with Ukraine. The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation presented the seminar’s participants with various Orange Revolution memorabilia, and generously donated Orange Revolution sticker booklets to the young children of CYM’s many U.S. branches.
“What is Leadership?” was not only the first question posed during the seminar, but also the title of the seminar’s first meeting. Mykola Hryckowian provided answers to this broad question by drawing on history and his own experiences. The next session explored the importance of marketing in organizations and the role played by effective leaders. Eugenia Kuzmowycz-Blahy shared her stories from the business and banking world of New York to teach valuable lessons about image, perception, and marketing.
On Saturday afternoon, Jerry Dutkewych acquainted the conference attendees with the work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and touched upon the various ways to improve one’s leadership skills. This session was followed by a discussion with Diana Howansky of Columbia University, who spoke about project management, and her experience as a Fulbright Scholar in Poland doing research on “Akcja Wisla: The relocation and assimilation of Lemkos.” Howansky encouraged the seminar’s participants to apply for the Fulbright program.
After an exciting day of workshops and discussions, the participants were treated to a festive dinner at Georgetown’s Ristorante Piccolo, and a tour of that part of the city, which highlighted the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, DC.
Sunday’s schedule included a mass at the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family, leadership workshops, and a tour of the nation’s capitol. The day’s guest lecturer, Bohdan Shevchik, spoke about branding. Drawing upon his entrepreneurial skills, his work as the General Director of Coca-Cola’s Ukraine operations, and his post as the first head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, Shevchik gave a dynamic and thought-provoking presentation on branding and marketing, then gave participants the opportunity to apply the presented concepts on their own.
An interactive afternoon session, titled “Leadership in the Ranks of CYM,” challenged participants to organize and run a fictional summer camp. The camp workshop, coordinated by Eugenia Kuzmowycz-Blahy and Andriy Bihun, was an opportunity for the participants to apply their newly acquired leadership skills. Working in two groups, the participants created two distinct and interesting summer camps by taking into consideration concept building, the target market, practical administrative and management skills, budgeting and financing, program development, project management, hiring and volunteerism, and advertising.
On Sunday evening, the group enjoyed a moonlit tour of Washington, DC. The Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Iwo Jima Memorial were among some of the stops. Afterwards, the participants visited the Taras Shevchenko monument, where they paid tribute to Ukraine’s great poet.
The seminar’s participants, high school juniors and seniors, hailed from various parts of the United States. Christina Drozd, Chicago, IL; Marko Diaczun, Strongsville, OH; Simon Kaarenko, Brooklyn, NY; Natalya Kuzewycz, Philadelphia, PA, Andrea Popovech, Astoria, NY; Monica Sawchuk, Scarsdale, NY; Yuriy Symczyk, Union, NJ; Michael Ushak, Tenafly, NJ; and Alexandra Szkafarowsky, Yonkers, NY.
Upon completion of the intensive seminar, the young sumivtsi professed to having gained a new appreciation for what it takes to organize and lead, not only within the context of a youth organization, but also to lead in a professional setting and personal life.
Participation in the Leadership Seminar was based on a competitive process and was by invitation from CYM’s National Executive, and was fully funded by CYM’s National Education Fund. The planning for next year’s Third Annual Youth Leadership Seminar, which will take place in October, 2006, is already underway. For more information about CYM’s Leadership Seminar, please visit www.cym.org.