Yavor Kiryakov ('12), AUBG MultiTalent Quest Judge, on Social Change and the Power of Education
Teacher, volunteer, leader – it is hard to imagine anyone more fitting to head the SOCIAL CHALLENGE Hack of the AUBG MultiTalent Quest than alumnus Yavor Kiryakov ('12). Founder of University for Kids, an NGO that inspires youngsters to discover the world of arts, science and technology, Yavor has always been passionate about social change. Back at AUBG, he was the President of the Better Community Club and a regular volunteer at the home for kids deprived of parental care in Blagoevgrad. He studied Economics and Political Science at AUBG and holds a Master of Science in Economics from the London School of Economics and a Master in Educational Technology from Sofia University.
The AUBG MultiTalent Quest is a one-of-a-kind competition that challenges high school juniors in a variety of disciplines ranging from English to mathematics and debating. The SOCIAL CHALLENGE Hack discipline, headed by Yavor, aims to empower the region's socially conscious youth to find solutions to a variety of social problems. We reached out to Yavor to hear more about his reasons to join the AUBG MultiTalent Quest, his advice to the high school students who wish to participate in the competition, and his connection to AUBG.
Tell us about your life and career after AUBG.
I graduated AUBG in 2012 and my career after that was significantly affected by what I did at AUBG. I majored in Economics and Political Science, but I was also an active volunteer and President of the Better Community Club at the university. When I graduated, I went for a master's in economics in London and then I returned home. I have been volunteering, […] looking for ways to devote myself to social causes and be useful to society.
Since my time at AUBG, I have been really interested in education and social transformation through education. I was a regular volunteer at an institution for children deprived of parental care in Blagoevgrad and back there, I figured out how important education is for our society, for the Bulgarian society in particular. So when I returned from London, I volunteered for a couple of educational NGOs. Gradually, I became more and more involved in education initiatives and then I also did a master's in pedagogics.
I was invited to become a vice-principal of a private school in Sofia and this meant that I am directing my professional career in the realm of education. After a couple of years as vice-principal integrating innovation in teaching in Sofia, I established an NGO called University for Kids, which aims to inspire and empower kids through lots of practical work, mainly in the fields of the natural sciences, arts and technology. The kids gain practical skills through doing experiments in physics or chemistry, for example, and participating in summer academies or weekend courses. We also have a lot of workshops and demonstrations.
What is the impact that the AUBG Multivalent Quest has on education in Bulgaria and beyond? Why did you decide to join the organizing team of the competition?
I first heard about the MultiTalent Quest through Deyan Vassilev ('95), who is the heart, the engine of the quest, we call him the father of the Quest and the mother is Sabina Wien [AUBG professor and faculty advisor of the Better Community Club]. Dido called me and when he explained the idea, I thought that we couldn't have such a MultiTalent competition, especially in AUBG, hosted by AUBG and run by AUBG alumni, and not have a discipline that deals with social challenges. So, together with Dido and Sabina, we started talking and discussing what the category could be and how to create it. Through a lot of discussions, we came to the idea that it should be something like a hack -- similar to the entrepreneurship hackathon that AUBG has been hosting-- so we decided that it will be a hackathon in the area of social entrepreneurship that will stimulate the applicants to think about the social problems that Bulgarians and Balkan people in general face.
What kind of skills and mindset are you looking for in this discipline?
Our goal, first of all, is to find these people who have these skills, who are prone to social change, social innovation, who are interested in volunteering and to encourage them to be active as a team. To show them that they are on the right path and to abolish the skepticism among the rest of the students because one trait of the characters of the youngsters in the region is that they are prone to give up on their society. So, our second goal is to inspire the students and to tell them that it all depends on them, on their decisions and their hard work.
The deadline to apply for the AUBG MultiTalent Quest is approaching. What would you advise the students who still wonder whether to apply or not?
My piece of advice would be to definitely do it, and not to underestimate their skills, to believe in their abilities. They should expect the unexpected, a spark in their life that could enlighten their whole future. They should be truly open to finding that spark and they should be hardworking.