We Support Talented Kids - An Investment in the Future!

"I can - here and now" is an investment in the future: by like-minded people who believe in the talent and fighting spirit of our children, in their ingenuity and their will to succeed!

The project sparked in 2010 and the first IT competition was held in 2011. A year later - in 2012 - it was expanded to include the SUPER Summer Academy and the Inspirers' Walk took place in 2013. In 2015, the "I can - here and now" project was expanded to include a foreign language competition, and the allUMNI club was launched in 2019.

The project "I Can - Here and Now" inspires many and receives wide support from natural and legal persons, state and educational institutions, including the Ministry of Education and Science (MES), the Technical University - Sofia, the University of Plovdiv "Paisiy Hilendarski", UniBit, SoftUni, MIA - GDBOP, Musala Soft, CodeIt, as well as from us - Hosting Jump.

"I can - here and now" June 2-4, 2023

“I Can - Here and Now”: June 2-4, 2023

In 2023, the competition in the fields of information technology, computer science and visual arts for students in grades 7 to 12 gathered more than 472 participants from 72 schools from 37 settlements in the city of Devin for the 12th consecutive year, who know that they can do it - here and now!

Among them in the role of the jury was also our representative - Tom Atanasov, for whom the participation had a touch of déjà vu, as he was also a participant in the IT race in his school days in 2013.

We invited him to share with us how he felt the pulse of the challenge - 10 years later and how it feels to be on both sides - as a participant in 2013 and as a mentor in 2023!

Tom Atanasov for “I Can Here and Now”

Boryana Popova: Tom, thank you for supporting projects like "I can - here and now!", which motivate children to believe in themselves and to have the will and perseverance to develop their talents.

Let us go back 10 years - what do you remember from your participation as a competitor?

Tom Atanasov: Although we are talking about events that happened 10 years ago, I still have intact memories of those days in my head. They were really exciting! But the truth is that I didn't originally want to take part. It was at the request of my programming teacher, Lilia Georgieva, who knew I could do it and believed in me. That's how I ended up being entered in the front-end development category.

I packed my luggage, put my laptop in my rucksack, and traveled from Vratsa to the city of Devin with two other boys from the school. Thanks to Pepi Doichinov, who also taught us programming and was our driver, we reached our destination unscathed.

"I can - here and now", Tom Atanasov, Todor Ivanov and Valentin Valentinov

When I got there, I met a lot of new people with similar interests to me. The euphoria was great, because right there at that moment I had the opportunity to meet live with my friend from Varna, with whom we had only met online until then through our joint work on my project in the field of games.

"I can - here and now", Tom Atanasov with Ruslan Leteyski

The race itself was not easy. In 2013, smartphones weren't that common, and access to mobile data was a luxury. So I was alone with my laptop and needed my knowledge and skills, without the help of Google or Stack Overflow - something that is hard to imagine today.

Tom Atanasov at "I can - here and now" 2013, during the competition

The task was to "cut" a design provided in Photoshop. The design was a challenge, but that didn't discourage me, on the contrary, it inspired me. Despite all the difficulties I encountered, I was able to complete and submit it in about 4 hours of continuous work.

Afterward, the boys and I went to "the "victory pour" together. We had a lot of fun. You can see that in the next photo where Ruslan is caught telling a funny story and I'm drinking. We burst out laughing!

Tom Atanasov at "I can - here and now" 2013, celebrates with Ruslan Lateyski

This photo was taken with my Nokia at the time using a flashlight. In times like these, we had to prove ourselves!

The next day was the awards ceremony. After the contestants were called up on stage for a long time, I finally heard my name. I went up and shortly afterward I was the winner in the category I had entered.

According to a representative of the jury (Kaloyan Petrov), first place was fiercely contested. The deciding factor was the design of the code because everything else was perfectly fine for both me and the second-placed boy (Nikolai Chochev).

Tom Atanasov at "I can - here and now" 2013 awards

Boryana Popova: What have you learned from taking part in the competition and what impact has it had on your career?

Tom Atanasov: Taking part in the competition helped me to develop my skills in front-end development and to deal with challenges better. I gained valuable experience in how to work under pressure and how to be productive despite a looming deadline. This has had a positive impact on my career.

Tom is currently a front-end developer with over 8 years of professional experience in various fields such as gaming, news media, web design, and development. At Hosting Jump, he develops and maintains new digital products and strives to meet the company's high standards.

With his extensive skills in creating user interfaces and following the latest trends in front-end development, Tom plays an important role in the company's development and success in the hosting industry.

Boryana Popova: Was there a déjà vu now - 10 years later - when you returned to Devin, but not as a competitor, but already as a juror?

Tom Atanasov: Yes, my return to Devin as a judge triggered a moment of déjà vu. During the competition, I had the opportunity to work with Stoyan Kostadinov, who offered to be a judge this year.

It was a nice meeting because I have known him for a long time, even before I participated in 2013. Both with Ruslan and Stoyan we have communicated online during these years and helped each other to become professionally what we are today.

Undoubtedly, it was a new and exciting perspective for me, which allowed me to look at the competition from a different angle and share my professional knowledge and experience with the young talents.

Boryana Popova: Are children today different from children 10 years ago?

Tom Atanasov: It is undoubtedly impossible to make a comparison between what it was 10 years ago and what it is today. The rapid development of information technology, the availability of smart devices, and access to extensive information have changed the way children interact with technology and the world around them.

With the advent of smartphones and other devices, children today have unlimited access to information. They can research and find answers to questions in real-time, giving them a huge advantage and the opportunity to learn and grow. They have powerful tools in their hands that allow them to connect, communicate, and collaborate with others around the world.

At the same time, with the growth of technology and the availability of a wealth of information, children are facing new challenges. The question is how to filter and analyze all this information and how to know which of it is credible and relevant to them.

In this context, the development of critical thinking and the ability to evaluate sources of information become important skills. Our task as a society is to encourage and support them in their diligent pursuit of development and knowledge acquisition.

Boryana Popova: Tell us more about the IT competition now in 2023.

Tom Atanasov: The competition took place within 7 astronomical hours, during which the participants had the right to stand up and walk around, talk to their teachers, parents, and companions outside the hall, and eat.

We gave them a competition-specific design created in Figma, prohibiting them from using artificial intelligence of any kind. We wanted to give the participants as many real working conditions as possible so that they could get an idea of what their day-to-day work would look like over time.

"I can - here and now" 2023

Before the actual competition began, we took some time to have a general meeting with all the participants in the category to find out about each of them and to introduce ourselves.

We found that many of them already had coding experience and knowledge, which was a pleasant surprise. This showed their commitment and willingness to improve.

Boryana Popova: What would you say to the children who will take part in the next competition in 2024?

Tom Atanasov: Never give up! No matter what challenges you face, persevere and fight. There is nothing more valuable in life than overcoming difficulties and achieving your goals. There may be times when you feel bored or hopeless, but the most important thing is that you see these times as opportunities for growth and improvement.

Have dreams and be curious. Never stop learning and expanding your knowledge. The world around you is full of exciting opportunities and new knowledge waiting for you. Be open to these opportunities and learn to use them for your development and success.

Remember that winning is not just a result, but a learning process. Sincere effort and actual progress are more important than any reward. Let it be a source of pride that you have bravely faced challenges and made progress, even if you have not achieved complete success.

Remember that knowledge is the most valuable resource you possess. Invest time and effort in your education and training. Take responsibility for your education and strive to be good at everything you do. Knowledge will not only help you succeed in school, but it will also help you understand the world better and be a valuable member of society.

So, keep dreaming, keep fighting, and keep learning. Only then will you be able to discover your potential and achieve great things? I believe in you and your potential for success. Good luck in the next race and in everything you will achieve!

And Who Is the Driving Force Behind the Project?

A highly motivated team was engaged to implement such a large-scale project, and Kristalin Chavdarov has been the driving force behind it from the very beginning until today. The cause inspires other enthusiasts who join in over time. One of them is Alexa Tachev, whom we would like to thank for accepting our invitation to tell us more about her journey from fellow campaigner to operations manager of "I can - here and now"!

Alexa Tachev

Boryana Popova: Alexa, tell us a bit more about yourself!

Alexa Tachev: My name is Alexa and I am 27 years old (as of June 2023). I come from the small picturesque village of Kolarovo, which is very close to the town of Petrich.

I have been part of the "I can - here and now" team for more than 6 years, and my professional activities are related to the construction of web-based projects - sites and applications.

I am mainly in the role of front-end developer, but more and more often I coordinate team/s, tasks, processes, and projects, which is also my more pleasant activity in everyday life.

Boryana Popova: And how did he end up in "I can - here and now"?

Alexa Tachev: I found out about "I can - here and now" from my computer science teacher at secondary school, who told me very passionately that "there is a computer science competition in Devin", which was also the reason why I signed up a few months later and entered the competition without any great expectations.

I spent 3 incredibly ambitious days there and even managed to place decently in my category, which motivated me even more to come back even better next year - which I did.

I took it a second time when I was already in the 12th grade and I managed to do better, which gave me the opportunity of a reduced admission to three Bulgarian universities.

In the same year I took part in the SUPER Summer Academy "I Can - here and now". These two years of participation took me out of my comfort zone, gave me the push I needed, and met me with the right environment of peers and specialists in the different digital fields, which still helps me daily.

Boryana Popova: And how did you go from being a competitor to being part of the team with a leading role in it?

Alexa Tachev: I became part of the team quite unexpectedly, but I think there was a reason for it. Just when I finished school and became a student, Kristalin Chavdarov (the founder of the project "I Can - Here and Now") invited me to be a guest at one of our events, the "Walk of Inspirers", in my hometown of Petrich.

Alexa Tachev

After that, he invited me to the next events as a volunteer and so I slowly, naturally became part of the team - now in my seventh year.

I probably also had a certain amount of good luck and "sporting luck" to be among the right people at the right time, although I don't think much of luck… Rather, I believe that everything that happens to us has a purpose, and today I can no longer imagine my everyday life without "I can - here and now" and my friends and comrades there.

In this train of thought, the meaning of this event in my life lies precisely in the fact that through "I can - here and now" I have found my direction and my purest ME.

Boryana Popova: What role do you now play in "I can - here and now"?

Alexa Tachev: My formal role in the association is that of operations manager, but in reality, I am directly involved in all the organizational processes, and not just the "I Can - Here and Now" ones - from the concepts for the events to communication with partners and participants, to coordinating part of the tasks and meetings, to the rest of the preparation and execution of our events… which for me personally brings the pleasure of going all the way, without the "straight lines" :)

Boryana Popova: Your role is very engaging and responsible! What motivates you to be so active and committed?

Alexa Tachev: The meaning, the value, and the environment that we develop every year through "I can - here and now" is my biggest motivation.

Of course, it is an irreplaceable privilege to pass on my experience, to be useful to the environment around me, the energy of the environment and those who participate in it, and the opportunity to be part of this symbiosis and together create favorable conditions for students and teachers in our events.

"I can here and now" 2023 motivation

Boryana Popova: What are your observations on how it develops - the "competition", how it develops over time - do the requirements, the participants, etc. change?

Alexa Tachev: In the last 6 years, since I joined the team, several generations of participants have changed. Each of them has its charm and energy, and this dynamic requires us to "keep up" with it to get better every day.

By adding our maxim of being up to date with our work and our approaches to today, the picture of our development over the years emerges.

The fact that each successive generation of participants is better prepared than the previous one makes a very pleasant impression. If we in my generation and my classmates in 10/11/12 grade learned how to create designs and websites, the current generation in 8th and 9th grade is already creating much more complex software and algorithms, and some of them are already working in a real business environment and developing rapidly.

Every year there are more and more examples of the enormous potential of high school students in Bulgaria. In this year's competition, for example, several students in the "Programming" category had developed and partially trained models of artificial intelligence as part of their task solution.

"I can here and now" 2023 artificial intelligence

We have examples of students taking part in all sorts of prestigious international competitions, hackathons, and contests where they win prizes, which is a source of pride when you have the opportunity to meet them, as well as their teachers building them up as competitors and people.

The dynamics of today offer extraordinary opportunities to anyone who dares to step out of their comfort zone and seek them out.

We often encourage "healthy" mistakes on the way to bigger goals, because only then do we make progress and something happens to us. Of course, I do not want to fail to admonish them to be vigilant, to think critically, and not to forget their roots.

Boryana Popova: Let's talk about the last competition, which took place in the city of Devin from June 2 to 4, 2023.

"I can here and now" 2023 participants

The number of participants - students, teachers, and mentors - in the 12th edition of the IT competition is impressive! How do you communicate with the schools? How many were involved in the first year and how many are there now?

Alexa Tachev: In this year's competition we met over 472 students, teachers, and parents from 72 schools from 37 locations in Bulgaria, which was really impressive and very inspiring.

At the first edition 13 years ago, there were just over 120 participants. Throughout the year, we maintain cordial contact with teachers from various schools and settlements in Bulgaria and endeavor to accommodate them with our activities, our environment, and our resources.

In these 13 years, we have had several teachers who support us and rarely miss our event, which is a valuable achievement for us. With a large number of them, we speak the same language and work in the same direction.

Here I should also mention the continuity they are building with their new colleagues, who are maintaining their tradition, which further enriches our visibility and our ability to reach more and more people.

The hike of the inspirers Alexa Tachev

Our event called "Walk of Inspirations" plays an important role in our communication with teachers and head teachers. Every Saturday during the school year we meet with students, teachers, principals, and parents from all over Bulgaria to introduce them to successful Bulgarians in different fields and their examples, advice, and experiences. We have currently held 56 "Walks" in different settlements.

Boryana Popova: It's impressive how many organizations and institutions support "I can - here and now"! How do you manage to achieve such successful coordination?

Alexa Tachev: At this year's 12th edition of the national competition for IT, computer science, and visual arts, we had just over 50 speakers and mentors on-site in our various 8 categories.

Of course, I cannot leave out our partners, who irrevocably support us in everything we do through "I can - here and now". In preparation for the event, we are going through a series of meetings to be as prepared as possible.

Coordinating all these processes and people, who are traditionally between 80 and 100, is a challenge, but also extremely stimulating because we see in each of them a like-mindedness and willingness to support, which is also the strength in developing our common mission - to create a favorable environment for extracurricular learning for students and teachers in Bulgaria.

"I can here and now"

It is no coincidence that we refer to our partners as "like-minded people" because our partnerships are based on long-term and shared principles and very often also on common goals that create this magical symbiosis between us.

"I can here and now" winners

Boryana Popova: What would you say and wish the candidates for next year?

Alexa Tachev: I would like everyone to believe in themselves and not stop developing in what they want most and what they believe in. To seize every single opportunity, not to be afraid, but simply to act!

Thanks to Tom and Alexa for sharing. We hope it is motivating and inspiring and that the baton is passed on to the next generations of talented kids who know they can do it - here and now!

Article from Denitsa Leonova

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