The Power of Dreams: University Transition Award Recipient – Zelalem Beyene

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars,

to change the world.” ~ Harriet Tubman

We all have dreams. They breathe life into what we do, inspire us to think big, and allow our heart to guide the way.

For Zelalem Beyene, his dream was to attend university to study medicine and become a doctor. Zelalem grew up in the community of Fagita which is located 30 km southeast of Dangla city. He is the youngest of four children and has three older sisters, all of whom joined university after high school. According to Zelelam, his sisters are his “role models in life” and have supported him every step of the way.

From a very young age, Zelalem dreamed of being a doctor so he could make a difference in his community. After completing primary school, he moved to Dangla city to attend high school, returning home on the weekends to see his parents.

However, during his senior year both of Zelalem’s parents became very sick and could no longer support him with the costs of meals and lodging to attend high school in Dangla. Fortunately, his sisters and teachers at Dangla Preparatory School stepped in to support him through his final year of high school.

Even during this time of hardship, his dream to become a doctor never wavered. However, as the time to take the national exam approached, Zelalem worried about how he would afford the items he would need to leave home and attend university. He knew about the University Transition Awards (UTA) provided by Project Ethiopia that support students with critical items including a suitcase, back pack, blanket, bedding, cell phone, and bus tickets. Zelelam was determined to score well on the test so he could be considered for an award.

Seeing his name on the list of 80 UTA award recipients in September, Zelalem could not contain his joy. Not only was his name on the list, but he was also the student who scored the highest on the university entrance exam at his school. And if that wasn’t enough, he had the third highest score in the entire Amhara region!


“I have no words to explain my happiness at receiving this award. When I learned that I passed the national exam and would be attending university in Addis, I was so worried about the expense of supplies and transportation due to the burden of sick family members.”

Supporting students like Zelelam is the very reason Project Ethiopia started the University Transition Awards in 2012. Since that time, we have provided 448 high scoring and needy students with a package of critical support items valued at $160/package. With a growing need for such support, Project Ethiopia hopes to gradually increase the number of awards each year. Next year, we plan to increase the number of awards from 80 to 100 students!

Zelelam recently started his second year at Addis Ababa University after a successful first year. He is confident, eager to continue his studies, and ready to reach high. What were once boyhood aspirations for the future, are now a fully realized present filled with possibility and hope for a young man ready to follow his dreams.

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