The application process was harder than any of us imagined. Transcripts, letters of recommendation, and tax records are not as easily accessed in Rwanda as in the US. The mentors say it was about 10x’s more work than they expected, but also was completely worth it. Most of them feel very strongly about their mentees, believing they will be successful in whatever they do. They have lots of plans and excitement for when their mentees come to the US. This process was just the beginning of a strong relationship for many of them.
The final tally shows that our seven candidates applied to a total of 32 colleges, ranging from schools like Rice, U of Chicago, Northwestern and Middlebury to Berea that offers a full scholarship for all admitted students. We have started relationships with administrators at most of these schools, and plan to grow these relationships in the coming years.
Through the process we realized that our pool of 7 candidates represents a nice array of academic levels and family backgrounds. In fact half are full orphans, several are fatherless and a few have large families. But despite their backgrounds each shined in their own unique way. Jackie, our most disadvantaged girl given she grew up in an orphanage, came through with an extremely moving essay. Denyse stood out for her leadership experience. Rina displayed amazing independence and drive. Melissa impressed us with her unending persistence and tenacity. We learned that in just two days Charlotte can crank out an awesome book report. Claire showed us she can do it all: work full time, study and apply. Sharon totally blew us away with one of her supplemental essays by revealing how she changed the way her fellow students from different ethnic backgrounds relate to each other. A full booklet of their essays is available as a pdf. Please write me if you would like to be sent one at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next year we will identify 16 more students to prepare for the SAT, and from that pool select 8 final candidates to be matched with mentors. We also plan to send a teacher to Rwanda, Kathleen Ruffle, to prepare the 16 students for the standardized tests and start them on the application process earlier. This will make the mentors’ job much easier, and will provide OAD with first-hand information regarding who should be matched with mentors, and what schools are the best fits for each.
Simultaneously we will be helping all the girls from last year’s program who win scholarships get settled in their new lives. We’ll provide airline tickets, computers and help them with all the essentials a freshman needs for her room.