MPP student Milad Tabesch wins Berlin’s 2021 “Blue Bear” civic engagement award

© Elka A. Jung-Wolff

Tabesch co-founded the initiative Understanding Europe Germany, which aims to engage high school students with the European idea.

Milad Tabesch, Master of Public Policy student at the Hertie School, is the 2021 recipient of the state of Berlin’s annual Blue Bear (Blauer Bär) civic engagement award, given on 29 September. With their initiative, “Understanding Europe Germany”, Tabesch and co-founder Vanessa Schmidt aim to foster dialogue on the impact of the European Union by offering workshops to high school students interested in the topic.

The Blue Bear is awarded annually by the State of Berlin together with the Representation of the European Commission in Germany. The prize honours outstanding civic engagement on the European project.

Understanding Europe Germany was founded in 2019 after ten years as peer-project of Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe. It is part of the international network Understanding Europe. The German branch organises workshops for high school students and other young people, in which participants learn about European integration and democracy.

Workshop participants also learn about political debate and participation: “In the courses, our trainers try to get the students to move out of their comfort zone and discuss topics that require controversial points of view,” Tabesch says. Students thus train their debating skills.

An added benefit of Understanding Europe for high school students is networking and career orientation. “Participants exchange ideas with university students about study and/or funding opportunities and about their interest in pursuing higher education,” Tabesch explains. “This is an equally valuable aspect of our work.”

Looking at the future, Tabesch and co-founder Schmidt have set themselves some ambitious goals: To increase the number of schools participating, to reach more marginalised students in areas where civic engagement has traditionally been low, and to offer further spaces for critical discussion on the European idea.