John Higgins

A delegation of six Serbian civic leaders visited the honors World Cultures class at Archbishop Hoban High School Friday morning to talk with the students about human rights in their country.

Akron International Friendship hosted the delegation through a program of the Open World Leadership Center, a Congressional agency working to increase U.S.-Eurasian relationships.

The delegation met with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in Washington, D.C., and then spent the past week visiting nonprofit organizations and government and school officials in the Akron area.

Michelle Wilson, executive director of Akron International Friendship, told the students that she had nominated their teacher, Greg Milo, for a national award because of his efforts to bring groups such as the Serbian delegation to his classes.

Milo was named the Educator of the Year at a national meeting this month of the Akron group’s parent organization, the National Council of International Visitors. The award honored Milo “for outstanding contributions to global awareness and citizen diplomacy in his class and community.”

“We’ve been working with your teacher for many, many years,” Wilson said.

Milo’s students had studied the former Yugoslavia, but the Serbians refreshed their memory about the ethnic wars that led to the breakup of the Yugoslav republic in the early 1990s.

“The war left tremendous negative consequences on each and every state and society because the war was characterized by gross human-rights violations, war crimes and ethnic cleansing,” said Ksenija Lazovic, who works in the political section of the U.S. embassy in Belgrade and accompanied the delegation.

Milo asked the delegates how much young Serbians know about that troubled history.

“We are dealing with an educational system that doesn’t recognize some of those crimes,” said Luka Zvonko Bozovic of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights. ``We have only, I think, 5 or 10 pages in our history textbooks about what happened during the ’90s.”

He said that’s why his group and the organizations his fellow delegates represent work to educate young people about their own history so they won’t be doomed to repeat it.

The other delegates are Mirjana Zoran Bogdanovic, executive director, Gay-Straight Alliance; Jelena Bosko Dzombic, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights; Dragon Milan Ristic, finance manager, Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights; and Jelena Boro Visnjic, program director, Feminist Culture Center BeFem.

The Serbian delegates also learned about Hoban students’ Project Hope, which helps the homeless with food and clothing, as well as their volunteer work with a variety of organizations during the summer.

During their week in Akron, the delegates stayed with local host families so they could get a taste of daily family life in America.

The group is to return to Serbia today.

John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.