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. PCV Eric McPherson and PCV Alyssa Campbell will work with 15 young girls from the local middle school.The female youth will learn through the MSS club the importance of the natural world, how it connects to everyday life, and how to use empowerment to become environmental change agents in their communities. Projects such as tree pepiniere creation and creative writing will give the participants in the club the tools to help combat climate change and empower themselves to become what they want to be. PCVs Eric McPherson and Alyssa Campbell will also invite counterparts and interested participants from surrounding villages to ensure that the whole area is involved in activities and benefits of club. PCVs also hope to do a girls soccer tournament with the villages surrounding the school village and this will bring together all the villages with some friendly competition.
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.
Our community contribution plan: The PCVs will have a designated counterpart as well as collaborating with five different counterparts to help out with different meetings throughout the school year. A local Master Farmer will come for the meeting focused on tree nursery establishment and container garden creation. Additionally, a leader from the local women's groups will come in for one of the meetings focused on gender empowerment. The school is not in the PCVs host village and the PCVs have had little interaction with the students. However, the director of the middle school has worked with staff and teachers to form a selection committee who will also select five scholarship recipients from the PCVs' host village as well.
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 school director are assigned to work in collaboration PCVs Eric McPherson and Alyssa Campbell 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 approved 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.