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 15 girls at a middle school, to decrease some of the financial barriers to school attendance. All scholarship recipients are required to participate in one formal training during the school year, and this year, we are also requesting funds to help start more sustainable “scholarship clubs.”
All Volunteers must use a committee of teachers for scholarship recipient selection, where they review the applications received 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. Our community contribution plan: School administration and teachers have collaborated to select fifteen applicants. The school was encouraged to view not only the girls' test scores, but also additional factors such as family situation and excitement for learning. Previous recipients of the MSS program will continue to be included while they remain eligible. It is estimated that the middle school and community members will donate $179 in time and resources to this project, contributing nearly one-third of the total budget. Most commonly this looks like co-facilitation of activities and use of classroom space for ceremonies, workshops, and clubs to occur. In addition, PCV Hannah has partnered with school administrators, English teachers, local health workers, and many others to design and hold activities.
Peace Corps Senegal has a history of administering girl’s camps. With the transition to clubs, this is an ongoing program will continue as part of our Food Security and Agriculture programs as well as our Senegal Gender and Development (SeneGAD) program, providing support from year to year. For long-term sustainability, community involvement by the counterpart and director are assigned to work in collaboration with PCV Hannah for knowledge sharing and continuity of the club once the PCV departs. In addition to the material support of the inscription fees and school/club supplies, club members engage in activities that will allow them to train others in their community on new skills that will sustain knowledge and build capacity of the greater community. Club members will elect leadership, assign roles and responsibilities and help administer the club, creating a sustainable approach with involved youth leadership. Finally, through the future planning essay, club members will be asked to specifically look at their futures in education and careers, building sustainable knowledge that will hopefully be shared with their peers and impact subsequent generations.