Cassandra Varanka

BRIDGTON — On January 19 at 7:30 a.m., via Zoom, Cassandra Varanka, Rotary District 7780 Peace Scholar candidate and one of 50 winners of the Peace and Conflict Resolution Scholarship, chosen by Rotary International in 2021, will speak to the Rotary Club which sponsored her, the Bridgton-Lake Region Rotary Club. Cassandra will talk about her past year, preparing for her studies, starting in March 2023 at the University of Queensland (Australia) Rotary Centre for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution, and what she hopes to accomplish during her 18 months abroad.

Cassandra heard about this prestigious award from her uncle George Szok, a long-time member of the Bridgton-Lake Region Rotary Club. She thought the fellowship could be an extraordinary opportunity to advance her knowledge and practical skill in conflict resolution. And after her impressive presentation at a Bridgton-Lake Region Rotary meeting in April 2021, it was clear to all that she was unquestionably an excellent candidate for this global fellowship. She was then interviewed by members of the Rotary District Peace Fellowship Subcommittee and ultimately endorsed as the sole candidate from District 7780, which comprises 41 clubs from Rumford, ME to Portsmouth, NH.

The fellowship, worth more than $75,000, will fully fund tuition and fees, room and board, round-trip transportation, and all internship and applied field study expenses. Each year, the Rotary Peace Fellows begin an 18-month program of study. Fellows are selected from countries and cultures around the globe, based on their prior experience in peacebuilding and their potential for future leadership roles in conflict resolution. In Cassandra’s case, she has had extensive policy experience in nuclear disarmament as a congressional aide, and in leadership positions at Foreign Policy for America and Women’s Actions for New Directions. Her goal is to use newly acquired skills to forward the use of diplomatic rather than military solutions for conflict resolution.

Cassandra now lives and works in Washington DC, but has strong ties to New England, where she was born, finished her college studies, and where her parents still live. She is especially attached to Bridgton, where her parents have a vacation home and her uncle resides. To obtain the Zoom link for this presentation, contact [email protected]

President Aaron Hagan remarked, “The time since Casandra’s selection and the start of the school year in 2023 in March has flown by. I am especially excited that she will be studying in my home country.  We will certainly check in with her mid-way through her program to hear how things are progressing. This is the first time our club has recommended a candidate for this global fellowship, inspiring us to seek out candidates in the future. We work with so many outstanding young people in the Lakes Region. Another global peace fellow could be among them.” For more information about this program, check out https://www.rotary.org/en/our-programs/peace-fellowships.

For more information about Rotary and the Bridgton-Lake Region Rotary Club, check out the website at https://lakeregionrotary.com or the Facebook Page or contact President Aaron Hagan at [email protected]

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