Every year the Gold­en Times is hon­our­ing the out­stand­ing AEGEE Mem­ber of the Year 2017. More than 100 peo­ple were nom­i­nat­ed and vot­ed by the 81 active mem­bers whose inter­views you could read in the past weeks in the Gold­en Times. This time there was a clear win­ner: Réka Sala­m­on, who was Pres­i­dent until sum­mer 2017, received more votes than any­one else. Here is a lit­tle eulo­gy, fol­lowed by state­ments of some of the mem­bers who vot­ed for her – and some infor­ma­tion on the oth­er out­stand­ing mem­bers of 2017, who man­aged to get into the Top Ten!

I met Réka Sala­m­on for the first time At Ago­ra Enschede in spring 2012. There is some­thing strange about the four spring Ago­ras in that city – some­how they are always con­nect­ed with scan­dals or intrigues. Back in 2012, Réka was mem­ber for one year and it was her first Ago­ra. I saw this young Hun­gar­i­an girl there at a par­ty for the first time, in com­pa­ny of Net­work Com­mis­sion­er Bea­ta Matusz­ka from AEGEE-Budapest. I had no idea that Réka had already start­ed to storm the Euro­pean stage and was already Beata’s sub­com­mis­sion­er.

PRC meet­ing at Ago­ra Enschede 2012 — with Réka!

A few months lat­er Réka became CD assis­tant for PR mat­ters, coor­di­nat­ed the very first edi­tion of Europe on Track in autumn 2012 and spring 2013 – that’s when this trade­mark project won the Charle­magne Youth Prize. In the fol­low­ing year Réka coor­di­nat­ed Europe on Track II as well and was involved in basi­cal­ly every­thing: PRC, Y Vote, EQAC… Many peo­ple thought she would become the next Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe, when short­ly before the spring Ago­ra Patra AEGEE-Enschede vet­er­an and Ago­ra Chair­per­son Paul Smits threw his hat in the ring and won the Pres­i­den­cy by 6.6 per­cent dif­fer­ence – against Réka.

Final­ly pres­i­dent!

Réka decid­ed to take the long way and became CD mem­ber in the fol­low­ing year before she was final­ly elect­ed as Pres­i­dent of the asso­ci­a­tion in spring 2016. With incred­i­ble ener­gy she want­ed to improve AEGEE, an asso­ci­a­tion which had been in decline for sev­er­al years. I met Réka many times in all these years and we chat­ted a lot about all the rea­sons that caused the prob­lems for the asso­ci­a­tion. And Réka always sur­prised me by her sharp ana­lyt­ic mind – usu­al­ly she had already real­ized what had gone wrong before I said it. In all my years in AEGEE I nev­er met any oth­er mem­ber – CD or not CD – who stud­ied AEGEE as thor­ough­ly as Réka. She seem­ing­ly read half the files in the archive, she used every oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk to mem­bers of all gen­er­a­tions in order to hear more facts, mem­o­ries and opin­ions about the past, present and future of AEGEE. I was amazed by this incred­i­ble knowl­edge she accu­mu­lat­ed about AEGEE. This was some­one who want­ed to learn from mis­takes from the past instead of repeat­ing them and call­ing this “progress”.

Réka pre­sent­ing Europe on Track in Stras­bourg

And this is where the trou­bles start­ed. Dur­ing her year as pres­i­dent, Réka devel­oped a plan how to get AEGEE back on a bet­ter track. She wrote a doc­u­ment of 35 text pages called “AEGEE State of play 2017”, which was made pub­lic short­ly before the spring Ago­ra Enschede 2017, when she want­ed to ask the Ago­ra del­e­gates for anoth­er man­date as Pres­i­dent in order to car­ry out the nec­es­sary reforms. In her attempt to start an open and hon­est dis­cus­sion, Réka for­got the basic rule when it comes to changes: get AEGEE’s biggest influ­encers and mul­ti­pli­ers on your side, con­vince them of your plan and orga­nize your­self a major­i­ty. Instead, with this doc­u­ment Réka stepped on many feet of some peo­ple, who were active on Euro­pean lev­el.

One of the nicest task as pres­i­dent sign­ing the Con­ven­tion d’Adhesion

Some of her rad­i­cal ideas, which were main­ly food of thoughts, were tak­en out of con­text and used to crit­i­cize her. In fact, this doc­u­ment was far too long and did not con­tain a catchy sum­ma­ry with some big fan­cy emo­tion­al words – a strat­e­gy which helped sev­er­al show-offs and pre­tenders to become elect­ed. But that was sim­ply not Réka’s style. She want­ed to go the hard way, believ­ing that the reform ideas were so con­vinc­ing that she did not need to sug­ar­coat them. Just being hon­est should win the day. It was a seri­ous mis­cal­cu­la­tion. Some peo­ple who did not like these ideas held a per­son­al grudge against her also for oth­er rea­sons and so she lost the elec­tion – again against a can­di­date who appeared in the last moment, like in 2014.

How­ev­er, despite the neg­a­tive elec­tion out­come, Réka received stand­ing ova­tions at the end of Ago­ra Enschede. It made her so emo­tion­al that she even want­ed to close the Ago­ra – an act which is of course the priv­i­lege of the Chair. It was a fun­ny moment that showed that this was a human being, who was tired of not being treat­ed in a human way.

Réka as train­er at the Project Lab

Since the Ago­ra Réka has not stopped work­ing for AEGEE. She con­tin­ues to help the asso­ci­a­tion on many oth­er lev­els. For exam­ple, I had the plea­sure to work with her at the AEGEE Project Lab, a small ideas fac­to­ry and train­ing event that we orga­nized togeth­er in sum­mer 2017 togeth­er with AEGEE-Agri­gen­to. And right now Réka is help­ing AEGEE-Istan­bul to pre­pare their autumn Ago­ra 2018, serv­ing the team as vice coor­di­na­tor.

A lot of peo­ple who worked so long in AEGEE in Brus­sels did this with the inten­tion to fos­ter their own career. Not Réka. For her the asso­ci­a­tion always came first. This is extreme­ly hon­ourable.

Réka as work­shop leader

Also many oth­er peo­ple felt that Réka’s work and atti­tude were out­stand­ing – and that’s why they vot­ed for her as “Mem­ber of the Year 2017”. In the annu­al Gold­en Times sur­vey I asked more than 100 mem­bers who held an office on Euro­pean lev­el or left an impres­sion as extreme­ly active board mem­ber of their anten­na. 81 replied and cast their vote. Actu­al­ly, they could nom­i­nate up to three peo­ple and so more than 100 peo­ple were sug­gest­ed – and Réka won hands down!

And this is what some of them wrote:

Réka faced count­less issues with a big smile on her face and a great tem­per”
Gabriele Nico­tra, for­mer Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Cata­nia, Sub­Com for Francesca Zor­co­lo and PRC mem­ber, AEGEE-Cata­nia

Zvon­imir Can­ju­ga

I would fol­low Réka any­where if we had the chance to work again togeth­er. In over three years of friend­ship and one year of work­ing togeth­er, I didn’t see any­one in our orga­ni­za­tion as devot­ed, hard­work­ing and detailed in her work. Of course, not all moves were right or played out well, but that is a small and irrel­e­vant num­ber when you con­sid­er what pos­i­tive effect her work had on AEGEE. Because of her work on project man­age­ment field, we don’t even realise how much project man­age­ment knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence was accu­mu­lat­ed with projects such as Europe on Track and GREAT, and even after her term the results of her hard work could be seen in recent projects”
Zvon­imir Can­ju­ga, Vice Chair­per­son of AEGEE-Europe, mem­ber of AEGEE-Zagreb and AEGEE-Pas­sau

I want to men­tion Réka Sala­m­on, for her will­ing­ness to con­tin­ue work­ing in AEGEE, tack­ling prob­lem­at­ics, and help­ing new peo­ple, even after two years of CD. Her deter­mi­na­tion is real­ly admirable”
Damien Lat­acz, for­mer Med­Com, AEGEE-Aachen, AEGEE-Düs­sel­dorf

Mar­co Daniele

The sin­gle most amaz­ing mem­ber of 2017 is Réka Sala­m­on. Her brav­ery, her intel­lec­tu­al hon­esty, her incred­i­ble under­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion of our asso­ci­a­tion is unbe­liev­able. I may not always agree with her, but I know there’s always a good rea­son why she says some­thing and it’s worth explor­ing it. If it wouldn’t have been for her, I would be in Tori­no at this very moment.”
Mar­co Daniele, Net­work Direc­tor, AEGEE-Tori­no

For me it has been Réka Sala­m­on, who has been out­stand­ing not only in 2017 but dur­ing her entire AEGEE career. The way that Réka works is not only adorable but it can moti­vate many AEGEE gen­er­a­tions to come”
Arme­nak Minasyants, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor AEGEE-Yere­van

Mari­na Klan­jčić

This year marked a turn­ing point for me while think­ing about AEGEE, so I will men­tion just one mem­ber: Réka Sala­m­on. Every­one who attend­ed Ago­ra Enschede will under­stand why, but if some­one still doesn’t under­stand why and won­ders, just ask your­self if you would ever make such a sac­ri­fice for an NGO and keep stand­ing still dur­ing Ago­ra Enschede. Thank you Réka!”
Mari­na Klan­jčić, Net­work Com­mis­sion­er, Liai­son Offi­cer towards BEST, Advi­sor of AEGEE-Zagreb

 

The runners-up in this category

The three peo­ple with the high­est num­bers of vot­ed behind Réka are: CD mem­ber María Balles­teros Melero, Net­Com speak­er Spy­ros Papadatos — and Sven­ja van der Tol. This is what peo­ple said about them.

María Ballesteros Melero

Real­ly appre­ci­at­ed: María Balles­teros Melero

María Balles­teros Melero has done an amaz­ing job in orga­niz­ing the open­ing con­fer­ence of Europe on Track and she has been con­stant­ly active on sev­er­al lev­els, not last her involve­ment in the Gen­der Equal­i­ty Inter­est Group. Now as CD mem­ber she is work­ing even hard­er than before, and I can just say I could not imag­ine a bet­ter CD appoint­ed per­son for my Work­ing Group.”
Vio­la Bianchet­ti, Equal Rights Work­ing Group Coor­di­na­tor, AEGEE-Hei­del­berg

María Balles­teros is so strong and full of ener­gy that every­one should be inspired by how she works for our asso­ci­a­tion. She is every­where, mul­ti­task­ing and I am so hap­py that she is in the Comité Directeur now.”
Francesca Zor­co­lo, Net­work Com­mis­sion, AEGEE-Cagliari

I nom­i­nate María Balles­teros from AEGEE-Madrid, for her ded­i­ca­tion and amaz­ing job with Europe on Track 4 and the kick-off con­fer­ence in Budapest, as well as for her work as Exter­nal Rela­tions Direc­tor of AEGEE-Europe, which she has tak­ing to a whole new lev­el with the biggest liai­son office we’ve seen so far. For her way of train­ing, think­ing and mak­ing deci­sions among many oth­er things that she does for AEGEE, she is the most out­stand­ing mem­ber in 2017.”
Jorge Sánchez, Project Man­ag­er of Europe on Track and Part­ner­ships Offi­cer, AEGEE-Dres­den

I would also like to rec­og­nize the amaz­ing work of Maria Balles­teros Melero and thank her for being the inspir­ing per­son she is, for encour­ag­ing me to get out of my com­fort zone and take ini­tia­tives that with­out her sup­port I am not sure I would have tak­en. I want to thank her from the bot­tom of my heart for every­thing she has offered to our orga­ni­za­tion, on so many dif­fer­ent lev­els!
Eri­fyli Evan­gelou, Europe on Track, Lan­guage Inter­est Group, AEGEE-Athí­na

 

Spyros Papadatos

Spy­ros Papadatos

I nom­i­nate Spy­ros Papadatos, for his com­mit­ment to the Net­work Com­mis­sion for already 1.5 years, who is going now for his sec­ond term as speak­er and from whom I learned a lot. I hope we can con­tin­ue coop­er­at­ing for so long!”
Ale­jan­dra Piot, Con­tent Man­ag­er AEGEE Day 2018, AEGEE-A Coruña

Spy­ros Papadatos for his hard work as a Net­work Com­mis­sion­er. He is always ready to help and build a con­nec­tion with locals and the peo­ple behind them.”
Zografia Lep­oura, Lan­guage Inter­est Group, AEGEE-Athi­na

Spy­ros Papadatos, Net­com­mie for sec­ond year in the row, Liai­son Offi­cer and mem­ber of EoT 5, is oth­er than my best friend, my men­tor and per­son­al inspi­ra­tion. He is a hard-work­ing, young per­son with a sol­id vision and spe­cif­ic goals regard­ing AEGEE and his life, that I think chal­lenges many peo­ple around him to want to be bet­ter. I have seen it as a friend, as a co-work­er on local lev­el and as an obser­vant in gen­er­al.”
Vasi­li­ki Andri­oti, SUCT, The AEGEEan, AEGEE-Ioan­ni­na and AEGEE-Cagliari

Spy­ros Papadatos is one of the most out­stand­ing mem­bers of the year, and I want to thank him very much for his ded­i­ca­tion, his time, ener­gy and mobile data he has used for Skype calls, for being always around to help and sup­port. It is always a big plea­sure work­ing with him!”
Eri­fyli Evan­gelou, Europe on Track, Lan­guage Inter­est Group, AEGEE-Athí­na

 

Svenja van der Tol

Sven­ja van der Tol (right) with Anto­nis and Andrea.

It is amaz­ing how Sven­ja van der Tol con­tin­ues to sup­port oth­er mem­bers to grow in our organ­i­sa­tion. She is always avail­able for ques­tions for us as CD, and plays a piv­otal role in the Youth Devel­op­ment Work­ing Group, Human Resources Com­mit­tee, and one mil­lion oth­er things.”
Loes Rut­ten, Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe, AEGEE-Utrecht

Sven­ja van der Tol is my men­tor — not only as expe­ri­enced mem­ber of AEGEE, but also as amaz­ing per­son. Sven­ja, who did sooo much for AEGEE, still has moti­va­tion, nev­er-end­ing ener­gy and courage to rule a work­ing group of fresh and unex­pe­ri­enced mem­bers is my favourite soft dic­ta­tor.
Poli­na Kha­pae­va, Mem­ber of YDWG, Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Sankt-Peter­burg

Apart from being very active as Youth Devel­op­ment Work­ing Group coor­di­na­tor, Sven­ja van der Tol has played a spe­cial role for me this year. Not only was she a ded­i­cat­ed Sub­Com­mie, work­ing hard and com­ing up with new ideas, she has also been there for me per­son­al­ly when I need­ed her. Thank you so much Sven­ja!”
Maria Zwartkruis, Net­work Com­mis­sion, AEGEE-Utrecht

I’d like to name my pre-pre­de­ces­sor Sven­ja van der Tol, who proved that true lead­er­ship lasts longer than a CD man­date. She keeps on inspir­ing me with her warmth and com­mit­ment for our newest mem­bers.”
Flo­ri­an Hauger, Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al of AEGEE-Europe and for­mer Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Hei­del­berg

 

Others on the top

Ale­jan­dra Piot

Also in the top ten are the fol­low­ing peo­ple: Net­work Com­mis­sion­er and EPM orga­niz­er Mari­na Klan­jčić, Ago­ra Chair and for­mer Finan­cial Direc­tor Zvon­imir Can­ju­ga, for­mer Net­Com speak­er and Key to Europe edi­tor-in-chief Ale­jan­dra Piot, Net­work Direc­tor Mar­co Daniele, Juridi­cal Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Moni­ka Mojak and Europe on Track 5 project man­ag­er Jorge Sánchez Hernán­dez.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to every­one!

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