Juulia Suuronen of Finland, Metin Orsel of Turkey, and Elie Rizk of Lebanon share something in common.
All are among 78 UWC-USA alumni who serve on national committees for their countries.
“I find it rewarding to continue to be part of the movement and to work towards ensuring that future generations of Finnish students have the possibility to attend UWC schools,” said Juulia, ‘15. “Of course it is also a nice way to meet old and new UWC friends.”
She joined the Finnish National Committee as a ‘thank-you’ to the committee for funding her UWC experience. Juulia is her committee’s treasurer.
“In a nutshell, I am in charge of the daily economics of the national committee, and involved in our budgeting and school selections,” she said. “A lot of my work involves communicating with our funders and the finance departments of the UWC schools.”
Because the committee is a non-profit, Juulia also keeps track of its payments and bookkeeping. She is also involved in student selections and other national committee activities to support the other board members.
“As cheesy as it sounds, the best thing about volunteering is meeting and working with the other alumni,” said Juulia, who is working on her master’s in environmental and resource economics at the University of Helsinki. “I have made many new friends and reconnected with old ones.”
Since joining the Turkish National Committee, Metin ‘88 has been involved with selections, welcoming candidates and families, computer work and assisting the committee chairperson with written correspondence to the Ministry of Education.
“I gave presentations on UWC at different high schools and some of them are on YouTube,” he said.
A computer engineer with a master’s in business administration, Metin also started the Minority Project, trying to increase the representation of minorities in the applicant pool.
“What got me started on this project was realizing that very few, almost no Jews, Greeks, Armenians or other minorities applied, let alone getting selected,” he said. “We, as a committee, are not prejudiced, but, apparently, we were somewhat short in expressing ourselves.
Metin started with the Armenian community, which is mainly concentrated in Istanbul. He wrote to the heads of five private high schools, gave a presentation to the board of their educational foundation, gave an interview to the joint periodical of the minorities in Istanbul and announced the possibility of a two-year scholarship for a minority member.
“Thanks to the efforts of Delal Dink, the daughter of the murdered Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, the schools welcomed our call for promotion and we got the first applications from their students,” he said. “One Armenian girl got selected and went to Dilijan. Now, I’m extending the domain of the project to the three Greek schools in Istanbul.
Metin believes it’s the feeling of indebtedness that pushes the UWC graduates to take part in national committees.
“Of course, it need not be a UWC bound thing,” he said. “Volunteering for the community is a way of paying back (or forward) what UWC has given to us all. The life changing experience has indeed made us all very different human beings.”
Elie ‘20 volunteered for his country’s national committee last summer after the committee reached out to families, looking for interns.
“I have always wanted to work with my national committee as they are really nice and fun people to work with,” he said. “I thought that was my golden chance since it was fully remote and I had so much free time because of the lockdown.”
A freshman economics major at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., Elie said the committee’s main goal was increasing the number of applicants.
“Thus, I conceived and executed strategies to expand the reach and recognition of the movement by redesigning the website to improve content and appeal,” he said. “These efforts indeed resulted in increasing the number of applicants by 20 more than last year.”
Elie also helped organize and design workshops for upcoming and current students. Workshops focused on the International Baccalaureate readiness, college applications and time management.