Sara Soľárova is a firm believer in the power of change, and throughout her LEAF Academy experience, she has explored multiple platforms. Through Model European Parliament, a conference for EU’s youth where delegates from different parts of the continent convene and work on their English, presentation and diplomacy skills and engage in public affairs, she was able to influence other youth. It is through this platform and other similar ones that she, in her own words, “took matters into my own hands and influenced a small group of people”. Reflecting on her time at LEAF Academy, Sara writes, “I learned to be entrepreneurial. Before coming to LEAF Academy, I had never thought of always seeking to find the solution. It might have happened that sometimes when the situation was rather difficult, I gave up or stopped trying to find a long-term solution. After spending two decisive years at LEAF Academy, I learned that no matter the circumstances, there is always a solution”. She continues, “Before LEAF I was a person that needed to push my ideas forward at any cost. I made sure I was heard, even if it meant that some people would not get a word. After studying here for two years, I became calmer, seeking the potential in other people and instead of having myself be heard, I try to encourage and develop those who do not have enough courage to speak up.”
Tomáš Miškov’s experience at LEAF was mainly focused on business, mathematics, and sports. He has participated in LEAF News, a student-led committee that researches and informs the academy about news in the world on Monday assemblies. As a sport anchor on this team, he has worked on his public speaking as well as research skills in an area he is truly passionate about. What he believes he has learned at LEAF was that time management and planning are extremely important and crucial for a happy and sustainable life. He believes that during his time at LEAF Academy he has grown and this is what he had to say, “I have matured a lot during my stay at LEAF. I have become more self-aware and able to take critical decisions. I learned to live on my own, discovered what makes me happy as well as found many life-long friends.”
Florian Niederseer was interested in different topics some of which he used his time at LEAF to explore. As a poet, he utilized the opportunities LA offered and founded his own company, Fountain Poetry, which combines art, spoken word and performance into slam poetry evenings full of overwhelming emotions, unique stories and unforgettable experiences. Amongst his many learnings at the Academy, one learning he cherishes is “If you plan your future goals, aim high”. He believes that LEAF Academy has contributed to his growth, this is what he had to say “I would say that I was curious and interested in various topics, but the advanced understanding for many of those was missing before I came to LEAF Academy. After my two years, I see myself definitely as not just more mature and equipped with a better insight, but also ready to take greater leaps forward”.
Maria-Isabell Abrahamsson’s passion for people and community drove her engagement in the community and its activities. Bella is known for her bubbly personality and for her work with LEAF News, a committee of students who research and inform the community through a news segment every Monday, on matters relevant to the community. People and community were at the center of her LEAF experience. She won poetry slam organized by of the Student Enterprises in operation at LEAF. She is also known for her outstanding work behind the lens, she has photographed for LEAF events, school projects and produced 2 marketing videos for LEAF Academy one of which was presented at the annual LEAF Awards in 2017. Reflecting on her growth she writes “I think LEAF Allowed me to grow to a great extent, and now when leaving I have somewhat learned how to balance my life, and even when it’s not balanced, it is usually a choice, and not me being overwhelmed by the situation. Furthermore, I have become much surer of who I am and what I find important in my life.”
Lucia Jaďuďová used the opportunities offered at LEAF Academy to explore her interests and passions for current affairs and culture. She was the LEAF News Correspondent for culture, informing the school on a weekly basis about successes of Slovak artists and about interesting cultural events happening in the area. Challenging herself with doing new things, Lucia was a member of the Design Team, a student advisory board dealing with the future design of the LEAF Academy campus in Vištuk. Lucia was a member of the LA team that beat out 160 teams from around the world to win the 2018 International Public Policy Forum, the only written and oral debate competition for high school students dealing with issues of public policy. Together with her team, she was co-writing academic debate essays for half a year on the topic of binding enforcement mechanisms for international climate accords. They advanced to the final oral round in New York as the only team from Europe and proceeded to win the competition. Reflecting on her growth at LEAF Academy she shared “I found out that no matter how much and how hard I work, I need to find time for myself, for my friends, for my family and for my passions because without them I cannot be truly happy.”
Silvia Filová’s passion for education and startups informed her experience at LEAF Academy. She explored multiple internships in her areas of interest. She was a founding member of WStatement, a student enterprise focusing on using an information campaign and T-shirt branding to fight corruption in Slovakia. Silvia has served as social networks manager for Nota Bene, an all-street street magazine that gives for homeless people the chance to earn a decent income, raise self-esteem, and improve their lives. Her experience also included but was not limited to being a mentor for the MIT Launch Summer Camp and participating in the Harvard MUN Conference. Silvia was involved in a number of projects as an intern at Google Slovakia, and for several years has been personally mentored by the Google country manager. When asked about how she grew during her time at LEAF and this is what she had to say “I think I become more aware of myself and my surroundings.”
Alexandra Galetová’s LEAF experience was heavily influenced by her passions and interests specifically in the arts and technical things. She shared her love for dance through being a leader of a dance club with other community members who share the same interest and love. Being a member of Model European Parliament, a conference for EU’s youth, where delegates from different parts of the continent convene and work on their English, presentation and diplomacy skills and engage in public affairs, was one of the many ways that she challenges herself. Reflecting on her growth at LEAF Academy she shared “The most important learning during my time at LEAF Academy is the fact that I found my limits and I have become more self-aware. I realized what I want, like and need in my life even though it was not easy to accept it at moments”.
Antonín Šámal stretched his LEAF Academy experience to explore opportunities and to create many of his own. He was a member a number of clubs that reflected his interests, including Expect Unexpected Club, Science and Physics Club, and the 21st Century Club. His has a compelling love for coding and robotics, through which he has laid a good foundation for his peers who share the interest. When asked what he thinks he has learned at LA, he answered that he has learned that he would love to be a part of an active international community, with food and joy; that he needs to work hard to be among the best, unlike before; how to calculate the volume of an object described as a function rotated by y-axes; and finally, getting very close to understanding Railgun”. Reflecting on his growth he said “I know I changed, but I don’t have a clue how. I guess I value more the basic and “automatic” things in life and I am more aware of my weaknesses. I grew roughly by 0 cm and 7 kg”.
Ján Gerčák’s LEAF Academy experience was heavily influenced by his passion for community engagement. Through his RA (residential assistant) role and leadership of the Mushroom Hunt Club, he challenged himself to be present and engaged in the community around him. HIs participation in Model European Parliament, a conference for EU’s youth during which delegates from different parts of the continent convene and work on their English, presentation and diplomacy skills and engage in public affairs projects, was another of the many ways he challenged himself. Reflecting on his growth at LEAF Academy he shared, “Before LEAF, I was very motivated to do things, but what I often lacked was self-awareness and the ability to reflect on my actions. At LEAF I became more self-aware, conscious of my decisions, and improved my critical thinking, making me able to form my opinions and thoughts better. I also learned how to distance myself from tasks and personal discussions, which allow me to take things less personally.”
Jakub Kokoška used his LEAF Academy experience to pursue what he is interested in and most passionate about, most notably art and the study of game design. Before LEAF, he competed in a wide variety of competitions ranging from geography, history and language Olympiads to math and robotics competitions. This breadth of interests was also reflected in his choice of AP subjects. With this kind of breadth of interests, it wasn’t easy for him to find his focus, but after enough exploration he is clearly decided on pursuing arts, more precisely games and game design. He has no doubt that LEAF Academy has helped him grow, and he reflected, “While at LEAF, I lessened my social anxiety, I learned that I can have an impact on the world around me thanks to the EL classes and I validated my passion for art through different works I created throughout my stay at LEAF, either poems, music or games.”
Filip Rácz’s LEAF Academy experience offered him the opportunity to pursue academics, leadership and humanity, all these are things he values and is proud of. While at the Academy Filip created an e-shop for his company. He utilized the opportunities to significantly improve his English language skills. He believes that some of the most important benefits he received from LEAF were gaining a solid background in academics and learning to be a valuable team member. He reflects “The biggest growth was in empathy and self-control, as well as being much more precise about the things I do. Throughout the time I also improved in workflow”.
Lea Thome used her time at LEAF Academy to overcome her fears and to challenge herself not only academically but in any way possible. Having attended Harvard Model United Nations this year, she continued this trajectory by being a team member of Model European Parliament Slovakia. She also led the Current Affairs Club this year, where she met weekly with fellow students to ponder the most pressing issues in the world to ensure that students stay informed and have the opportunity to voice their opinions on important matters. Lea was also part of the Community Principles Committee, a group of three students and three faculty charged with developing the principles and standards that form the code of conduct for the school as well as hearing and making recommendations for disciplinary cases among their peers. In addition, Lea served as a Residential Assistant, which shaped her view of how a great community can look like and why it is so important to build such one. She believes that all those experiences were pivotal in helping her become who she is now.
She reflected that, “ failure is not necessarily a bad thing but that it is one of the steps to success. While something might not work out on the first try, if you continue to stay resilient and do not give up then you can really manage to turn something into a success”.
Ema Rajčanová’s LEAF Academy experience shaped her and her values, without compromising who she is. Her role as the residential assistant allowed her to form strong bonds with her hall mates and the LEAF community at large. Her involvement in the LEAF Academy was always community-based given her roles as a Residential Assistant or Community Principles Committee member. Ema was also a member of EL project which focused on researching extremism among young people in Central Slovakia. During this project, she learned to understand young people not based on what seemed right to her and her values, but what seemed right to them in the environment they were. She realized how often we tend to judge people based on our biases and she also learned how to let them in order to understand people as they are.
“There were a couple of learnings which I am taking away from LEAF Academy: I learnt how to ask for help. I learnt how important it is to stay true to yourself, to be authentic and not to change or do decisions just because somebody else is doing it. I also understood that you do not need to change the world, it is enough to try to make it a better place and to make people around you happier”.
Tala Karolina Nierodzik
Tala Karolina Nierodzik used her LEAF Academy experience to explore her passions and talents. She was the leader of the Visual Image Club and the unofficial photographer for all things LEAF Academy. As a photographer, Tala captured some of the events taking place at LEAF Academy, including but not limited to covering slams produced by Fountain Poetry, a student-led enterprise that organizes poetry slams featuring artists from across Europe. What she believes she has learned at LEAF was openness, “LEAF community taught me how no to be afraid and strive to achieve what I truly seek. Both, EL and life after classes showed me that there is always a way and the fact that you want to espouse different than others direction is not a bad idea”. According to her LEAF Academy has been a space where she started to think about her dreams as thoughts and plans that are both achievable and possible.”
Clara Jan Youssef
Juraj Jursa used his LEAF experience to open himself to new opportunities and experiences. A true “Renaissance Man,” Jura’s interests range from poetry to coding, visual arts to martial arts. His passion for martial arts propelled him to claim the 2014 Slovak Champion in Kendo, a traditional Japanese style of fencing that today is a modern martial art practiced throughout the world. Striving to achieve the unity of body and mind, Kendo is both a sport and an art and a way to coordinate the physical-emotional-mental dimension. Juraj’s interest in poetry, combined with his tech savvy and marketing skilll, led him to become one of the founding members of and integral forces behind Fountain Poetry, a student led enterprise that organizes poetry slams featuring artists from across Europe. For Jura, his time at LEAF Academy has been a great opportunity to learn that people matter and to learn to“tame” himself as he puts it. He further reflects “I became more open and conscious of people around me, those who truly matter.”
Samuel Ján Nvota
Samuel Ján Nvota’s used his time at LEAF Academy to explore and share his passion with the community. A passionate debater, he coached a debate team, managing to qualify for the quarterfinals of the second biggest debate tournament in the world, the Winter Holidays Open. He further challenged himself as a member of the winning team of the International Public Policy Forum, the only written and oral debate competition for high school students dealing with issues of public policy. Together with his team, he was co-writing academic debate essays on the topic of binding enforcement mechanisms for international climate accords. They advanced to the final oral round in New York as the only team from Europe and proceeded to secure the title of world champions. When asked how his experience helped him grow, this is what he had to say “Before joining LEAF Academy I was driven, curious and ambitious. However, I felt fairly lost in what I want to do. I knew I wanted to have an impact but how and in which field? LEAF helped me to be more self-aware and realize where I want to be in the future.”
With her passion for visual arts, Viktória Kosztolányiová used every opportunity that would allow her to learn and express herself more in visual arts. She was a member of the Design Team, a student advisory board for the design of the future LEAF Academy campus in the village of Vištuk. She worked with Kalab, a community center and gallery focused on Slovak minorities living abroad. She also seized the opportunity for social impact when she joined the WStatement project, a student-led enterprise that seeks to address current issues like corruption, through a comprehensive tee shirt, branding, and information campaign. She spent one year working as a lecturer in a language agency in Bratislava. When asked about her LA experience, she reflected, “I got more confident in what am I doing, my English has improved significantly and I became less competitive and more supportive towards others. I also learned that it’s okay to not know and ask” she shared.
Sabina Šimková utilized her LEAF Academy experience to overcome her fear of speaking in front of large audiences. Her participation in the rainbow club allowed her to share her opinions and thoughts in a group setting. The club helped her exercise one of her passions for activism, while LEAF News, a student led committee that researches and informs the academy on news events on the Monday assemblies served as platform for to explore her passion for writing. She reflects “Before LEAF Academy I was a person afraid to talk in front of larger crowds and I used to overthink my actions. Throughout the two years at LEAF Academy, I became more confident in front of others, more confident in my own words, and especially I learnt how to just let things be instead of trying to get everything under control.”