The Mentoring Successful Scholars program was established in 1993 as the Michelle Sylvester Scholarship program in memory of Michele Sylvester, a former PC Senegal volunteer dedicated to gender and development work. Its purpose is to help close the gender gap in education, as many girls drop out as a result of early marriage or pregnancy, or to help with housework, particularly during the middle school years. The scholarship provides money for school inscription fees and school supplies for girls at each participating middle school, in order to decrease some of the financial barriers to school attendance. All scholarship recipients are required to participate in a formal club during the school year, and this year, we are also requesting funds to help start more sustainable “scholarship clubs.”
Our site-specific: Counterparts and PCV Gabrielle Fuerst will work with 30 middle-school aged girls, 15 from each of the city’s two middle schools, to begin a youth entrepreneurship club. At the start of the school year, the club will focus on identifying the gaps in the local market and the community's needs. The club will foster creative thinking and problem solving. Throughout the school year, the girls will develop their own model businesses for the city. By the end of the school year, each girl will have created their own model business. At the final meeting, each girl will present a poster on their business to the parents, teachers, and other school staff that attend, serving as a business fair.
School administration and teachers have been involved from the beginning of the program at each participating school, by establishing a selection committee to select scholarship recipients, based on objective factors such as grades and subjective input from administrators and teachers, based on their local knowledge and insight of each girl’s home and financial situation. This year, all volunteers must use a committee of teachers for scholarship recipient selection, where they review the list of eligible recipients as a team. Volunteers must not be in a position where they may be perceived as handing out money or be involved in the selection or evaluation of students as recipients of money. The project must demonstrate that only host country nationals should be in charge of the process of nomination, selection, and administration of any funds used for this purpose. School administration and teachers are also very involved in the application process, publicizing the program to students, and planning the congratulatory ceremony and any follow-up activities. Volunteers are also required to involve a local counterpart in their group’s club. The 30 girls will be chosen by committees comprised of the principals and selected teachers from each middle school. Each of the two middle schools will be responsible for choosing 15 girls based on academic excellence and financial need. In addition, each middle school principal will nominate an interested teacher to serve as a counterpart for the duration of the club. These counterparts will have an interest in and knowledge regarding economics, entrepreneurship, or local businesses. Counterparts will collaborate with PCV Gabrielle to plan each lesson and will attend and co-teach all lessons. Counterparts will facilitate conversation with parents of the recipients to explain the importance of the scholarship and club. By empowering them to teach lessons on their own, their leadership abilities will be heightened, thereby allowing the club participants to run for club leadership positions. By the end of the school year, the club will have four different leadership positions and the club will be able to choose their focus for the next school year. Local counterparts and PCV Gabrielle will help the leaders create materials for next year’s club and will partner with a local women’s group to teach the girls about how to operate as an informal savings institution. This will allow the girls to save money for next year’s inscription fees since PCV Gabrielle will be unable to provide them with the MSS scholarship for the 2020-2021 school year. PCV Gabrielle and local counterparts will have ongoing conversations with school administrations about the possibility for providing the school's own scholarships for girls in need for the next school year. In addition, the final end-of-year celebration will include speeches by local counterparts and school administrators regarding how important it is for parents to prioritize their daughters' educations in the upcoming years, given PCV Gabrielle's inability to provide the scholarship for the 2020-2021 school year.