Gena Sturgon

Connect Program Fellow Fall 2020; Senior Facilitator

Country of origin: USA

Date started with Soliya: 2014

Education and field of work: Through the nonprofit that I founded, I work in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, namely in Kosovo. My work specializes in using sport and play for development, cross-cultural dialogue, youth empowerment, and civil-military interaction with youth. I have a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Sydney (Australia), 2020; Diploma in International Security from the Academy of Young Diplomats/ European Academy of Diplomacy (Poland), 2017; and Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Science from the University of Northern Colorado (USA), 2013.

One accomplishment you're proud of: Starting my own nonprofit/ NGO, Play2EDUCATE (www.play2educate.org). Growing up I always knew that I wanted to help people and do something different. I started traveling and discovering my passion for the world at 19, yet I still had no idea what I wanted to do in life. At 25, while working in Kosovo, I saw my interests and experiences come together into a project idea. Less than two years later I was officially the founder of a nonprofit in the USA/ Kosovo working with youth, security actors, sport for development, conflict resolution, and dialogue. It has grown exponentially since then and continually inspires my studies, research, and life.

What about Soliya inspires/motivates you to be involved? As a student in the Connect Program back in 2011, I was inspired by the opportunity to meet new people, have valuable discussions, and improve my communication skills. The experience had more of an impact on me than I ever could have imagined. Since then, Soliya’s work has only continued to improve and have a wider reach, and I continue to be inspired by the power of Soliya programming to empower young people to think and engage with others and themselves on deeper levels. I am regularly left in awe by the depth and brilliance with which Soliya’s curriculum engages participants and participants engage the curriculum. Soliya’s programs spread hope and skill into the world, while planting the seeds of critical thinking and active leadership. What could be more motivating than that!

What can you be found doing when not working/facilitating/training? I love to travel and explore new places. I re-energize when I am in touch with nature or aimlessly wandering the streets of a new city. I also enjoy taking photos of the places I visit and sharing them with others to inspire adventure. When not traveling, I enjoy reading, learning new languages, and spending time with close friends and family.

Favorite food: Kashmiri Indian food