Ines Crnokrak, a former supermodel, faced a daunting challenge when she tried to find educational resources to teach her son Serbian in New York City. “I realized there is very little educational content in the Serbian language available on the internet that a child can use without the help of their parents,” she told The Balkan Voice of The Pavlovic Today. “Parents are burdened with regular school obligations, work, healthcare, and existential problems, leaving them no time for extra work.”
In the midst of a global pandemic, Ines took matters into her own hands and founded Skola Serbika, an online platform designed to offer children and families a positive and nurturing environment for learning the Serbian language.
“I realized there is very little educational content in the Serbian language available on the internet that a child can use without the help of their parents,” Ines explained. “Parents are burdened with regular school obligations, work, healthcare, and existential problems, leaving them no time for extra work.”
The platform’s Cyrillic learning program is divided into three levels, focusing on letter recognition, pronunciation, vocabulary, reading, writing, speaking, grammar, and conversation.
“In the first level, we focus on letter recognition, pronunciation, and learning basic concepts. In the second level, we expand vocabulary and encourage children to read, write, speak, and play more in Serbian. In the third level, we improve writing and grammar while prioritizing fun and conversation,” explained Crnokrak. “Our school is designed so that play comes first, and learning follows,” she added.
Skola Serbika’s educational platform has proven to be effective when teaching kids the Serbian language. “Every personal story of our students is unique, but after just a few lessons, every child falls in love with the Serbian language and happily spends time with us learning it,” said Ines. The platform’s success has also inspired non-Serbian-speaking children to learn the language, as they see their friends studying with Skola Serbika. “By the middle of the first level, those children could read short words and sentences, have a vocabulary of over 300 words, and communicate essential ideas in Serbian,” said Ines.
“Each of our students is amazed by the beauty and ease of learning Serbian language. Even children who were not initially interested in learning anything besides regular school get excited and start the next lesson with a smile after two or three sessions. The messages we receive from parents are proof, the greatest inspiration, and encouragement: their children enjoy themselves.”
Crnokrak explained that modeling taught her fundamental skills to the success of Skola Serbika, such as the importance of organization, discipline, and attention to detail “all of which have been invaluable in creating and running a successful school.” While the fields are different, the skills and knowledge Ines gained from modeling have proven to be useful in her current work.
Undoubtedly, raising a child in a foreign country comes with the threat of identity loss. To combat this, Ines and her family make a conscious effort to maintain Serbian traditions and language in their household.
“We speak Serbian at home, read books in Serbian, and celebrate Serbian holidays. We also take our son to Serbia as often as possible to help him connect with his roots and culture. It’s essential to us that our son maintains his Serbian identity while also embracing the culture and traditions of his country of residence,” she said.
Currently, Skola Serbika is developing language programs and curriculums for adults who want to learn Serbian. However, Crnokrak has plans to expand the platform to include other languages.
“We are already working with organizations from other countries to adapt our program to their language and culture. We are excited about the potential to help more people learn and connect with different languages and cultures,” she said.
Ines Crnokrak: Self-confidence is the key to unlocking everything you ever wanted
Before moving to United States of America, Ines Crnokrak lived in London and travelled for work across the globe. Recounting her experience of New York City, the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” Crnokrak expressed her admiration for the country’s infinite opportunities and stunning diversity.
“America is an incredible country with endless opportunities, and the diversity here is simply beautiful. New York, in particular, is like a microcosm of the world. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to experience so many different cultures and traditions all in one place, without having to travel to the other side of the world,” she quipped.
When asked for advice to women seeking to succeed in the business world, Crnokrak offered a gem.” Self-confidence is the key to unlocking everything you ever wanted. Don’t waste your time seeking validation from others, but rather, pursue your dreams with conviction,” Ines exclaimed.
“In America, women in business receive significant support, and while the same may not be true for other places around the world, the formula for success remains the same across the board: when you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything you want!”
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