Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the 1995 signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, also known as the Dayton Agreement, one of a series of international meetings that led to the end of the Bosnian War.
Since the accord was signed on November 21, 1995, efforts to build the relationship between Dayton and its sister-city, Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina have continued. A recent, sizable grant from the U.S. State Department will go a long way in cementing that relationship.
Funding, to the tune of $120,000, will be used to support a youth leadership exchange with representatives from the Dayton sister-city of Sarajevo later this year. 18 students and three teachers will come to Dayton as part of the "Four Cities Young Leader Academy."
The program is operated by The Dayton Mediation Center, who received the grant, and several partner organizations in both Dayton and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In 2016, City Commissioner Matt Joseph was a member of the Sister City Committee that flew to Sarajevo. He says the youth academy is a direct result of talks that have taken place between the two cities.
“So this program is specifically designed to help introduce these students, these 18 students to how we behave here in America, how we make change happen and now we believe we put together a nice program to bring them here and help them with that,” Joseph says.
Joseph says that much has been done to move the country beyond its war-torn state a generation ago but that there is still change that needs to take place.
"You know I love the country. It's beautiful. The people are very generous. The food is great, the culture is fascinating. The mountains are beautiful," says the commissioner of his visit there two years ago.
"Things are different, things are repaired. The thing that hasn't been repaired yet is the fact that the Constitution there which was put in place here in Dayton hasn't been modified very much and it really it needs to be completely overhauled by the Bosnia-Herzegovina people themselves....But this program I think will help to get to some of the structural issues that are preventing more prosperity and better lives of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina."
Arch Grieve with the Dayton Mediation Center, is leading the exchange program and has made several trips to the country. He says, as a former teacher, he knows the value that exchange programs can offer young people.
“That's something that I'm really passionate about," he says. "So we're trying to organize the whole experience almost like a project based learning type experience for the students and so we're going to have an essential question which is what does it mean to effect change in a democracy and they're going to go through and look at that here, in Columbus and even in D.C.."
Grieve says he'll head back to Sarajevo one more time for an orientation for the students and teachers coming in October and right now the mediation center is focusing on finding an adequate number of volunteer host families for the students and teachers making the trip.
"People should definitely apply to become host families and they can do that by visiting our web site at Dayton Sister City Committee dot org."
Dayton actually has five sister cities around the world; Augsburg, Germany, Oiso, Japan, Holon, Israel, Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Monrovia, Liberia.