Mentoring Successful Scholars
- Women & Gender
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 one formal training during the school year, and this year, we are also requesting funds to help start more sustainable “scholarship clubs.” Our site-specific MSS Plan will focus on tapping into the entrepreneurial mindset of an adolescent. The club will meet bi-monthly to discuss topics such as creativity, sales techniques and public speaking. By using the resources available to young women in the area, our activities will focus heavily on developing strong agricultural practices through container gardening, solar drying and organic lifestyles. Club members will have the opportunity to meet and engage with female leaders in their community that may guide the girls in future planning and goal-setting endeavors. Utilizing an MSS counterpart and support from the school, this club will have the opportunity to address some taboo topics head on like childhood pregnancy, menstruation and proper hygiene and healthy eating. The counterparts selected have been utilized in past MSS clubs and therefore proven their resiliency and drive to see this club become sustainable. In addition, parents of the participants will attend, at minimum, 3 meetings alongside their children to see face-to-face the inspiring work their daughters are accomplishing in their studies. This engagement with school administration will reinforce the importance of obtaining a higher education and seeing the value in keeping their girls in school. In the end, the goal is to show 15 girls, who struggle financially and academically , how to create goals and financial stability for themselves in an area where that is not widely supported.
School administration and teachers are involved from the beginning of the program at each participating school, working on candidate selection, 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 are strongly encouraged to use a committee of teachers for scholarship recipient selection, or an application system, in which the girls submit applications that teachers review. 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. Projects are also completed with the leadership of local counterparts in their group’s club. Our community contribution plan:
The educators at the school work tirelessly to provide each student with the necessary tools for learning and development and this program was no exception. Following the same procedure as last year, the principal will be contacted for approval of another year of the MSS program. After that, the principal will call forth a board meeting amongst himself and staff and faculty to decide on which girls should be selected for MSS based on the executive boards established criteria. The deliberation will take a couple of months due to teachers and staff alike needed to compile the students’ final marks. Once the young ladies have been selected, a meeting will be held at the school for the chosen students and their parents with the principal and their MSS counterpart (another female staff member). This MSS counterpart has been selected by the principal and will attend each 2-hour session for the MSS club held every two Saturdays.
This annual program will continue each year as part of the activities of the Senegal Gender and Development (SeneGAD) committee and through reinforcement of the local middle school and their supporting institutions such as the regional educational development center, 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. The MSS club plans to make the scholarship sustainable by providing the club members with knowledge in regards to income-generating activities (IGAs). It is the hope that this club will inspire the girls to create their own means of income so that the financial burden of attaining an education will be less on the family. Most planned activities for the club will have a financial and budgeting component to it so that by the end of the lessons, participants will have over 9 different ways of increasing their revenue so they may fund their higher education.