Mentoring Successful Scholars Program

  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • Women & Gender
  • Senegal
This project is led by Katherine Walker, a Volunteer from Florida

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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”. The club will allow girls to learn leadership skills and be able to become the leaders of their communities to create solutions for the challenges that they face. The club will cover topics related to agriculture, environmental, and health education. A combined focus on agriculture, the environment, and health will allow the girls to learn about ways to increase positive environmental impacts, increase nutrition for themselves and their families, and have knowledge to increase food security by using sustainable and water conserving agriculture techniques. They will be able to teach their communities what they have learned and will give them the ability to be involved in decision making at the household and community level.

School administration and teachers are 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. My community contribution plan: The scholarship committee will choose 15 girls (5 girls from 3 grades) to receive the scholarship and to participate in the club. Counterparts will help facilitate the initial meetings with scholarship recipients and parents to help explain the program and expectations of the scholarship. The headmistress of the college in my town has shown strong motivation to participate this year in the MSS program and will be able to help identify other counterparts and has taken initiative to discuss possible ways to promote the scholarship and it's importance for girls' education. The headmistress is highly respected and will be able to create personal connections with the parents' of students and be able to involve parents in their daughter's continual education and of its importance. Counterparts will contribute about towards assisting club meetings. Counterparts from the local community, health post, and vocational school in town will talk about specific topics during club meetings related to agriculture, health, and environmental education. The school selected the girls by using a committee and evaluated a broad range of girls from each grade.

This is an annual program that will continue each year as part of the activities of the Senegal Gender and Development (SeneGAD) committee, sustaining the benefits of this program from year to year. Counterparts are assigned to work with the volunteers throughout the duration of the program to ensure the continuation of newly established clubs once the program and Volunteer have finished. In addition to the material support of the inscription fees and school supplies, candidates also engage in activities that will allow them to train others in their community on new skills that will sustain knowledge sharing within the community. These activities can relate to the four sectors within Peace Corps Senegal: Community Economic Development, Health, Agriculture, and Agro-Forestry. Volunteers will work with their girls to turn these activities into themed-student-run clubs that are designed to continue after the volunteer has left their site. The girls will also sustain the benefits of the program after taking part in the future planning essay writing. After this session, they will develop plans for successfully completing their educations and embarking on careers. A possible outside funding source could be the local Rotary Club. This possible partnership could lead to increased collaborative projects that provide more opportunities to an area that is usually neglected. Another option would be to hold a training on savings plan or a training on monetizing a skill so the girls could save for their own school fees.

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