Monthly Archives: December 2012

For Argjend, the Sky is the Limit: the Story of an Intellectually Disabled Boy in Norway

This is a touching story of a boy named Argjend, who is intellectually disabled. While Megafon Media follows his journey, we learn about his dreams and goals, and we see how he gets the help and support he needs from both family and school.

By: Suzan Bawan

Argjend lives in a house in Norway with his loving and supportive family. He attends a local school and attends a class he likes to refer as “the different class”. Megafon attends the production of a shortfilm in which Argjend appear. They also film the the premiere of that film, that takes place in Argjends local school.

He loves to sing, dance and act. His biggest wish in the world is to perform through dancing, singing and acting. He’s a big fan of Michael Jackson and wishes to become as famous as him. “Good luck” his mother says with a glimt in her eye.

While making the movie they get help from a school director and at times it gets frustrating for little Argjend. But with the extra support he finishies what he’s started.

The big premiere is emotional for his mother, who orderd a limousine to take him to the red carpet school premiere. Arriving to applauses and hugs, flowers and compliments through out the evening, I think it’s easy to say Argjend was a very happy boy that day.

Kosovo young developers: make it to Global Startup Battle as the second best ranked team in the world

Leart Zogiani and Bardh Lohaj are members of the XIIIK team. They won the third edition of Prishtina Startup Weekend and qualified for the finals of the Global Startup Battle as the second best ranked team, among 130 teams competing from all around the world.

XIIIK has won 4755 votes via online voting on Facebook. “I am thrilled with this and it’s hard for me to believe that through votes we got the second place in a global competition although we come from a small state”, says Leart Zogiani, a 3D artist and member of the XIIIK team. The XIIIK team was the winner of the third edition of Prishtina Startup Weekend organized by Innovation Centre Kosovo.

Success of a team from Kosovo
Success, according to Zogiani, is greater when having in mind that the Global Startup Battle is the most important and biggest worldwide entrepreneurship competition. The first place in the first round of the Global Startup Battle was awarded to the London Based team SmartWard that got 5025 votes, only 250 votes more than XIIIK. Each city that hosted a Startup Weekend (including Prishtina) at the Global Startup Battle is represented by the winning team. In the first round 130 teams compete among themselves, while in the finals only 15 teams that got most of the votes qualify.

According to sources from the Startup Weekend, the jury very much liked the work of the teams that were voted on Facebook. The winner will be announced next week. The jury consists of Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos, Brad Feld one of the managing directors at Foundry Group, Leah Busque, founder and CEO of, Chris Hollod from A-Grade Investments and Jesse Dreaper, CEO of Valley Girl.

Awards for the winner of the Global Startup Battle:

  • A free VIP trip to Rio De Janeiro for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress-sponsored by Global Entrepreneurship Week
  • A VIP trip to San Francisco to tour Googleplex and meet with founders, mentors, and investors-sponsored by Startup Weekend and Google
  • $5.000 in-kind PR Launch Package for your SW team sponsored by Geben Communication
  • $5.000 worth of Design Service for your SW team sponsored by Btrax
  • $5.000 Incorporation & Legal Package sponsored by Cooley LLP
  • $20.000 credit for Google App Engine sponsored by Google
  • One full year of bragging rights as the winner of the world’s largest startup competition!

XIIK will have another reward from the community of entrepreneurs and the StartUp scene in Kosovo. This will be put into history of the new scene as the first Startup from Kosovo who ranks among the 15 best in the world. In addition, XIIK is the only team from Southeastern Europe which has become a part of Global Startup Battle, competing with teams from England, Canada, Mexico, Israel, USA etc.



Kosovo students reach Brazil: Naim Korqa works for renown architect Gustavo Penna’s studio

Kosovo youth are seeking opportunities for education across the continents. Naim Korqa is studying architecture in Brazil. He left Kosovo in 2008 with only a basic understanding of Portuguese and went through a long process of securing a Brazilian visa. Naim says that his determination to become an architect gave him motivation to excel…He mentions Brazilian curiosity towards Kosovo and its culture as a factor that eased the transition… only a few people know about the war of 1999, and nothing else about Kosovo. He gives his own efforts as an example of action young people can take – he has made various presentations and introduces Brazilians to the culture of Kosovo and its beauty.

Naim Korqa is a 23-year old student from Gjilan, Kosovo. For the past four years, he has been enrolled at the Methodist University Izabela Hendrix in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He has just defended his graduation thesis in architecture and urban studies. Being a part of an institution that is distinguished by excellence in teaching gave him many opportunities to complete his objective of becoming an architect today.

While in Brazil, Naim used his spare time to get involved with community activities and perfect his skills in architecture. He worked with the local office of AIESEC, which is a global youth organization that develops leadership capabilities through internal leadership programs. In addition, he worked in four different architecture studios, learning from and cooperating with multiple Brazilian architects. He is currently working in the studio of one of the best Brazilian architects, Gustavo Penna. This has, without a doubt, been an invaluable learning experience as it gave him a chance to partake in multiple projects that the architects focused on.

However, his journey was not easy. He left Kosovo in 2008 with only a basic understanding of Portuguese and went through a long process of securing a Brazilian visa. Naim says that his determination to become an architect gave him motivation to excel. He adds that the beginning was very challenging,  but that he got used to Brazil with time and even started considering it home. He mentions Brazilian curiosity towards Kosovo and its culture as a factor that eased the transition. However, even though the people were very welcoming, living in a completely different culture, not knowing the language, and having to adapt to Portuguese cuisine made adjusting very challenging. We asked if his Brazilian friends knew about Kosovo and what can young people do to improve the image of Kosovo in the region of Latin America. To this, Naim answers that only a few people know about the war of 1999, and nothing else about Kosovo. He gives his own efforts as an example of action young people can take – he has made various presentations and introduces Brazilians to the culture of Kosovo and its beauty.

As for future plans, Naim plans to pursue a masters degree in architecture and urban studies. He is not yet sure if he wants to stay in Brazil or study  elsewhere. His long-term plan is to return home and help with the development of architecture in Kosovo. He intends to open a studio in Prishtina and continue the partnership with the architects he has worked with.

Ilire Agimi’s research explores multi-level governance in post-conflict societies

Ilire Agimi is another successful example of a Kosovo scholar, who is enhancing multi-level governance in post-conflict societies as well as making active contribution to Kosovo through her work with local think tanks.

Ilire is another young scholar who is currently completing her PhD in a joint programme of the University of Maastricht and the UN University, based in Netherlands. She is also involved in coordinating a joint seminar series between the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and UN Development Fund. At the same time, Ilire is also working with the Centre for European Policy and Politics based in Kosovo, where she leads public analysis section. Prior to these activities, she completed successfully her master studies on peace and security at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, in Hamburg.  She completed her undergraduate studies in political science and public administration based at the University of Prishtina in Kosovo.

Ilire is currently conducting research as part of her doctoral studies on modes of governance in post-conflict environments. Her study focuses on the distribution of power and its impact on shifts towards multi-level governance. Her research builds on multidisciplinary literature covering governance, Europeanisation and state-building studies. Through the local governance lens, her research looks into the complex power relations between multiple actors and analyzes the shifts of power from central to local and from state to non-state realms. Focusing on Kosovo, Ilire’s research draws on primary data, collected during the period 2010 – 2012.

As part of her ongoing commitment to advance local research capacities, Ilire is currently leading the Kosovo-wing of a regional research project on the political economy of fiscal decentralization in South East Europe. Partnered with research institutes and universities in Albania and Macedonia, the research will result in a series of academic papers and a collection of policy briefs. Ilire is also a member of the SEE Working Group of British International Studies Association and the South-East European Academic Network.

Ilire also works as a Teaching Assistant at Maastricht University on courses in Public Policy, Politics and Governance. Prior to starting her dissertation research, she worked as policy advisor with international aid organizations in Kosovo and provided research consultancies for the government and international agencies. Until 2009, Ilire was lecturer at the Master Program on Civil Society and Local Development at the University of Prishtina.

To view her professional profile at Maastricht University, click here.

Albanians from Kosovo conquering Americans’ hearts one dance at a time: the Tony Dovolani effect

Tony Dovolani is the winner of the Dancing With The Stars – All Stars. The finale was America’s most watched show of the season. Licia Cleaveland, a grandmother of three from Clayton, Georgia, shares her love for Tony and the pure joy for his win. Tony, born in Kosovo, is undoubtedly, one of the best ambassadors of Albanians abroad. He is a true champion of the dance and of the small nation.

By Licia Cleaveland

I wanted to shout to the world MY TONY WON!!! Yes, last Tuesday night was one to remember for a lifetime. My Tony finally won Dancing With The Stars (DWST).

I first saw Tony Dovolani about fifteen years ago as I was watching an International Ballroom Championship competition. It was the Latin finals. I was just dazzled by this man who was sooo sexy, I found myself watching him instead of his partner. I made a point to memorize his name and to continue to spot him at other competitions. Did I mention I love ballroom dancing?!

So on with my story. When DWST debuted on ABC, I signed up for life! What a great first year. Little did I know the best was about to come. The second year opened with introductions and I nearly fell off the sofa – Tony Dovolani was on DWTS and I could see him every week.

Life could not get better than this!!!Then slowly reality set in….if he didn’t get a great partner people would never get to see his “stuff”. It seemed like forever, and then Season 8 arrived. Tony and the talented Melissa Rycroft were great. At last my Tony was shining, and everyone was watching him and then his beautiful story ended in third place.

I was so sad. So close and yet so far. I continued to watch for years, I have never missed an episode of DWTS. And this year I hit the jackpot–my Tony got his talented partner (Melissa Rycroft) back, and everyone got to see his real talent!

There is a funny little “we are all connected” backstory in connection to MY TONY. My daughter and son-in-law were posted in Kosovo shortly after the war. My daughter taught English as a second language, and found a wonderful young man she thought would be an excellent exchange student for his last year of high school.

Enter Behar Xharra to the Cleaveland (our) family. That was the fall of 2002. I know of Tony. He is another Albanian and a great dancer! That is the first thing I told Behar upon meeting him at the airport. Of course, as soon as DWTS came on, I had Behar in front of the TV introducing him to his fellow compatriot.

Now fast forward to the spring of 2012, Behar was about to graduate from grad school (he was so charming, we just couldn’t seem to ditch him and now he has “favorite child” status), and Behar is putting on a special gathering of Albanian diaspora in New York. And you guessed it, he meets in person MY TONY!! My life is complete ….my two favorite Albanians are now friends!!!

Licia Cleaveland lives in Clayton, Georgia , USA. She is a grandmother of three, a Life Master at Bridge, a hat collector, and a professional at Feng Shui. She has visited Kosovo in 2002, Tony’s homeland, and has hosted and supported a student from there throughout his secondary and tertiary studies in the United States.

Licia has recorded the DWST Finals show! She gets to watch Tony and Melissa Win everyday now – it just puts a great big smile on her face. Pure JOY!!!


Video segment from the DWTS Finale 2012

Tony Dovolani and Melissa Rycroft live at Jimmy Kimmel Show. Tony wishes all the Albanians Happy 100 Years of Independence

Gent Thaci lives the American dream

“No double dipping!” Before leaving his hometown of Prishtina, Kosovo, foreign exchange student Gent Thaci, a junior, was given this memorable piece of advice about American culture. This little tidbit of American courtesy has become one of Thaci’s favorite sayings in the two months he has spent in Huntsville. After moving to the city of Prishtina at the age of thirteen, Thaci became very interested in finding an exchange program that would allow him to spend a year in the United States. Though a bit apprehensive at the start of the process, even to the point of hiding his application from his parents, Thaci knew that he “wanted to live the American dream.” With the help of the Kosovo Youth Exchange Program, Thaci is doing exactly that.

At this point you are probably wondering, where exactly is Kosovo? “So far, I have only met one person who knows where Kosovo is,” commented Thaci. To keep it simple, he usually describes his native country as “somewhere between Greece and Italy.” Kosovo is a relatively young nation, having only declared its independence in February of 2008. Due to this fact, Thaci is rather forgiving of most people’s lapse of geographical knowledge.

Those who know him can tell that Thaci is a huge movie buff. Last year, Thaci worked his way through IMDB’s list of top movies until he had seen almost 500 films! Through movies like Forrest Gump, Thaci developed a thoroughly cinematic vision of America. “I was excited about everything in America. I’ve always been a big fan of the United States and the U.S. way of life and I was excited to see if America was like it is in the movies,” explained Thaci. When asked if his new home was living up to his expectations, Thaci replied, “so far, so good!”

Though he is new to America, Thaci is very involved back in Kosovo. Though he is only seventeen years old, Thaci has made connections with the technology community all around the world, boasting an impressive 1,378 followers on Twitter. “Everything started when I moved to Prishtina, the capitol of Kosovo,” Thaci explained. He had been a technology enthusiast for many years, but at the age of fourteen, Thaci took action and joined Flossk, a non-profit organization promoting open-source software.

Soon after starting at Flossk, Thaci soon became the community manager, a position that gave him the opportunity to network with technology giants all across the globe. Thaci attributes his impressive English speaking skills to this experience. Through “emailing and Skyping” with his technology colleagues, Thaci learned to speak fluent English with very little formal training.

With such an obvious passion for the world of technology, it is no surprise that Thaci has come to love his daily classes at the Huntsville Center for Technology. Aside from making a new set of friends, Thaci loves the hands-on learning experience. From “building an R.C. rover” to studying a “thirty dollar computer,” the technological offerings of Huntsville High have allowed Thaci a very rewarding learning experience in the United States.

After he returns home to Prishtina this summer, Thaci plans to begin studying to take the ACT. If all goes as planned, Thaci wishes to return to the United States to attend college. “This whole experience has been amazing. Sometimes I am in the swing of things and I don’t realize what is around me. Then I stop and realize,‘I’m in America!’ and it’s unbelievable!” Most of us only dream of living in our favorite movie, but for Gent Thaci, this dream has become a reality.

Gent’s favorite things about America

Mountain Dew
Little Rosies
The Rave
Muscle Cars

Originally published at: Huntsville High School The Red & Blue Newspaper