GVSU students form new Macedonian American Student Association

Kyle Doyle

A small nation in eastern Europe on the northern border of Greece, Macedonia can sometimes be overshadowed by larger countries like Greece or Serbia.

But some people will never forget their homeland and will do everything they can to make it better.

The Macedonian American Student Association (MASA) is a student group comprised of Macedonian-American students who wish to make a difference in their home country while studying at Grand Valley State University.

“We try to outreach to people or to the community through bake sales, fundraisers, charities, marathons, like 5Ks, and we like to give back to the community,” said Petar Elieff, president of MASA and GVSU sophomore. “That’s the main goal, to give back to the community.”

MASA gives back to the community by donating the proceeds of events, large appliances, furniture and clothing to orphanages in Macedonia to help better the lives of those children.

One of the ways the organization gives back is by hosting 5K runs. The group charges $10 a runner to enter the race with the proceeds going toward supplies.

Elieff said at the last 5K, they had over 100 people come out and they raised over $1,000 to send back to Macedonia.

The runs aren’t the only way the group gives back. They also hold bake sales with traditional Macedonian dishes.

Some of these dishes include kifli, which is a less crispy croissant sprinkled with sesame seed and stuffed with feta cheese, börek, which is filo dough with cheese, spiced ground beef or both, and zelnik, which is made with a similar dough as the kifli but is the size of a pie and has cabbage and feta inside.

The group itself is an offshoot from a larger group called the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) which helps Macedonian-American students all over the country and those who are from Macedonia themselves. UMD offers support and resources for students, classes and help assimilating into the U.S. and scholarships for people of Macedonian descent looking to further their education.

“You say why you’re proud to (be) Macedonian,” Elieff said. “So, you write an essay on why you’re proud (and) they picked two winners from the U.S. and a girl from the capital, Skopje.”

MASA on campus only has five members, but its small numbers don’t effect the group’s willingness to serve and help the Macedonian community at home and abroad, Elieff said.

To Elieff, MASA is a big ‘”thank you” to everything that has happened in his life. For him, being involved in the group is his way of making sure others can feel the same way.