Nga Alfons Rakaj/
Albanian community’s ability to integrate and succeed in U.S. is in itself a successful story. The entrepreneurial spirit of our people has flourished in an environment that welcomes and encourages it. However, much more could be done to further enhance the integration of our community at a higher level of the social strata.
There are two main areas where progress could be achieved with far reaching consequences. One area that needs serious consideration is scholarship.
There are dozens of Albanian American NGO’s that operate in the country. The mission of most of them is patriotic in nature. However, their limited achievements speak to the urgent need for reassessment of values and practices.
One of the ways they can further enhance their goals is through scholarship. There is a lot of need for financial support among aspiring Albanian youth who wish to study in the U.S. and have academic potential. Yet, their limited financial resources combined with an ever increasing cost of education hinder their ability to materialize on this goal and their academic potential. I know this is the case because I learned this from experience.
As an Albanian studying in U.S. I have gone at great lengths to search for scholarships available to Albanian students. I was encouraged by the idea of ethnic scholarships and my educational future depended on my ability to find venues for financing it. That began a long journey of an unsuccessful research journey.
But I learned a great deal about ethnic scholarships. There are many ethnic scholarships available for students coming from across the globe to study here. These funds are primarily donated by individual donors and organizations alike to encourage promising students to study in the U.S. In contrast, despite days of research I was able to find only one Albanian scholarship funded by Albanian Americans.
According to data released by International Educational Exchange, an independent non-profit organization, in 2013 there were over 800,000 international students attending colleges and universities throughout the U.S. Albanian students are a modest contributor to this number. But financial support could really increase their chances of attending a U.S. college or university. In return, many of these organizations could use their expertise in further advancing their goals such as a better website or scholarly research. In the long run, Albania could benefit from them too as they could be the next engineers, designers, doctors or lawyers helping with its modernization process by contributing with their world class skills and expertise. As a nation, we are very generous in our giving. The very existence of these organizations speaks to that itself. In the words of president Obama himself, “we must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.”
Another area where progress could be made is investing in English courses. There are many religious and cultural centers that organize dozen of events a year, some of them more expensive than others, particularly in Michigan and New York where there is a high concentration of Albanians. Yet, the ability of our community to further integrate and take advantage of the opportunities laying ahead is hindered by their inability to speak English.
One way that modest investment and organization by churches, mosques or other cultural centers in collaboration with Albanian American NGO’s can make a difference is by changing that. An English teacher could cost around $30,000 a year. Lessons can be taught for beginners and intermediate level English. The costs could be further lowered by part time employment of the teacher(s). If one of the religious centers could offer their space for free or at half price that could also help. Other venue options are public libraries that offer their space for a modest charge or for free depending on the location.
The need is there and so is the opportunity to make this a reality. I know that to be the case because our lavish spending often goes to areas that have very limited impact and reach at best limited results. This case is different and the potential for better results is much higher. These two areas have the potential to further impact integration and advancement of our community in the social stratum both short and long term.
Nga Alfons Rakaj/