Scholarship helps to carve out a new future for student
For incoming first-year Amira Ali Abdulkadir from Kenya, receiving an acceptance package from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in the United States of America this spring was surreal.
For most of her life, college was a pipe dream and simply out of reach for Abdulkadir. The fifth in a family of nine children, Abdulkadir home-schooled four of her siblings while continuing her own course load because her family could not afford to send all nine children to formal school. Now, as a Zawadi scholar, she will attend Hobart and William Smith (HWS) Colleges on a full scholarship and carve out a future that once seemed inconceivable.
"The Zawadi scholarship and my being accepted to HWS is a dream come true. I feel like all doors of opportunity are now open to me. In fact, it is an answered prayer," says Amira. The Zawadi Africa Educational Fund is a non-profit organization that seeks to help academically gifted (in the top one- to two-percent of their peers) but economically disadvantaged girls from Africa achieve a higher education. Through its partnership with The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation it is providing scholarships to these girls at internationally recognized universities and colleges worldwide.
To be selected, the young women must have strong academic credentials, be active in tracurricular
activities and have demonstrated leadership skills. They are recruited through high school guidance counselors and community leaders. The Zawadi scholarship is highly-competitive; a selection committee screens approximately 30 students for each opportunity, and then narrows the list down to the top six candidates, each of whom applies directly to the specific college or university partner.
In her high school, Abdulkadir was active in Junior Achievement, First Aid Club, World Youth Alliance, Debate Club and Students Against Drugs Club (SCAD). She was also a member of the basketball team, and house captain and chair of the Muslim club. She also volunteered in school, assisting Muslim students.
Numerous letters of support and reference for Abdulkadir cited her industrious nature and her welldeveloped leadership skills. "Her maturity, confidence and eloquence were exuded," wrote one of her teachers.
Abdulkadir predicts that her greatest challenge may be adjusting to the weather. Despite that, she is eager to arrive. "I look forward to an exciting academic adventure, new people and an incredibly fulfilling future," she says.
A home base
Local businessman Arthur Santelli, of Santelli Lumber, will provide room and board for Abdulkadir during her four years at HWS. Santelli approached the Colleges about participating in the Zawadi Scholars program after seeing the organization's President, Susan Mboya, on C-SPAN, addressing a college in the Midwest.
"I thought it was a great program that I wanted to be involved with; giving back to society is part of my service ideal," says Santelli. He contacted Mboya to see how he could sponsor a student and how to do it locally. He approached HWS to see if the Colleges would be willing to participate because he was impressed with President Mark Gearan's past experience as Director of the Peace Corps and because of the Colleges' emphasis on service.
"I think President Gearan has done a great job at the Colleges and I'm really pleased we've been able to add this program to its civic engagement efforts," says Santelli.
Gearan agrees The Zawadi Africa Educational Fund fits well with the Colleges' ideals. "Art Santelli embodies the 'power of the idea' that we will celebrate this academic year. He was moved to reach across the globe to make higher education a reality for a stranger and we're honored and thrilled that we can be part of that experience."