Alumni of the Month: January 2013

Increasing Mutual Understanding Between Morocco and America

January 2, 2013

Samira Idelcadi, a Moroccan alumna of the 2006 Professional Fellows Program, is the January International Exchange Alumni Member of the Month. She received this honor in recognition of her success in building on her exchange experience and increasing mutual understanding between the people of Morocco and America.

In 2006, Samira attended the Teacher Education Institute in Boston, a month long teacher training program designed to promote critical thinking, civic engagement, and conflict resolution in the classroom. Following this institute, Samira gained additional training from follow-on U.S. State Department-sponsored programs including a “Civic Engagement” workshop in Rabat, Morocco in 2007 and the “Collaborative Art Initiative” in Tiznit, Morocco in 2008.

In late 2008 Samira put all this training to work when she carried out a series of after school programs designed to encourage her Moroccan students to be more engaged in their community and learn about public speaking skills. As a result, some of her students created a club in order to share the skills they learned with other students while others are developing a TEDx Tiznit (a city in southern Morocco) that will take place in June 2013. Samira gained community-wide recognition for her efforts and as a result was invited to run for city council on the same ticket as the Mayor of Tiznit. Their run was successful and in 2009 Samira was elected to the Tiznit city council.

Samira used her new position and visibility as an opportunity to increase mutual understanding between American and Moroccans. Working with the University of the Middle East Project (UME), Samira helped the Mayors of Tiznit and Somerville, Massachusetts connect with each other leading to the establishment of an official Sister Cities relationship between their two cities in 2009. Since then, the partnership and the relationship of the citizens of these two cities have strengthened through various cross-cultural and professional development workshops and exchanges. This relationship even caught the attention of the media, receiving coverage from a national Moroccan news outlet and a local U.S. news station.

Recently, Samira was elected President of the Association of Moroccan Alumni of UME- implemented exchange programs. Samira is also a founding member of the Tiddokla Alumni Association, a chapter of the Moroccan American Friendship Foundation, open to all Moroccan alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs. Through a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, in 2013, Samira and her fellow alumni will carry out a series of civic engagement workshops throughout Morocco. The project aims to empower 40 high school students from ten regions in Morocco with leadership and project management and skills.

Each month, the Bureau’s Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Throughout January, Samira Idelcadi will be recognized on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website for the more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.