University Transition Awards – A Year of Growth

Three recipients of a 2018 University Transition Award.

This year has brought two exciting developments for our University Transition Awards program. Every fall, Project Ethiopia provides support packages valued at $200 to aspiring young adults who have successfully passed the university entrance exam. All past awards have been provided to 50 students each year; the 20 top highest scoring girls, the 20 top highest scoring boys, and 10 students who have passed the exam and have special needs or represent the most economically disadvantaged. This year, we are delighted to report that we expanded our awards to 80 students by increasing the number of neediest student awards to a total of 40.

At a community ceremony held each year in Dangla town, Project Ethiopia distributes a carefully selected package of items that will help support cultural adjustment from rural village to large city. This includes: sturdy suitcase, back pack, bedding and blanket, basic cell phone, and a round trip bus ticket.

Since 2012, Project Ethiopia has made awards to 338 high school graduates. Beyond helping rural students reduce the economic and cultural barriers to making the transition to university, these awards motivate the recipients to work hard and stay in school. And the results are

impressive. Our first three groups of award recipients (138 students) have all graduated from university and the remaining 200 award recipients are still in school and on track to graduate.

The second development is a new tutoring program launched over the summer to support rising 10th and 12th graders preparing for the national university exam. In countries around the world, stressful university entrance exams (and even high school entrance exams) are an unavoidable part of the educational experience. Ethiopia is no exception. Throughout the country, students must pass exams at the end of 8th grade and 10th grade to advance through high school and again at the end of 12th grade to continue their studies at the university level.

This innovative pilot program provided both an opportunity for returning university students to support their community and much needed academic support for high school students seeking to successfully pass the national university exam.  Eight returning university students and previous recipients of a Project Ethiopia University Transition Award (UTA) volunteered to serve as tutors and mentors for a total of 304 high school students (208 seniors and 96 sophomores) at two Dangla high schools – Mengesha Secondary School (grades 9 and 10) and Dangla Preparatory School (grades 11 and 12). Students received tutoring in the following subject areas:  English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Economics, and Biology.

University Transition Award students volunteer to plant the gardens at Mengesha Secondary School.

In addition to the 8 tutors, project staff also recruited 12 returning UTA recipients to volunteer at the schools, cleaning the grounds and planting the garden. This unexpected, but wonderful addition to the summer program, only enhanced the overall spirit of volunteerism of the project and provided a meaningful way for these students to give back to their community.

Tutoring for students who can afford to pay for such support is available to Dangla-area students and is often provided by high school teachers. Project Ethiopia’s summer tutoring program is the first of its kind to offer this support free of charge and by university students who have recently prepared for and successfully passed the exam. All of the students participating in the Project Ethiopia summer program would not have had access to this support were it not for the UTA volunteers.

As two participants told Project Ethiopia Leader, Workineh Genetu:

“Many students can get tutorial by paying money. Now needy students can get the same support from UTA tutors. Thank you to Project Ethiopia!” 12th grade male student

“I know I received the same or even more knowledge from UTA tutors compared with the students who got tutorial from paid teachers. I am very thankful for this support.” 12th grade female student

 We wish to extend our gratitude to the Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund, Kent Rotary Club, Lake Forest Park Rotary, and several individual donors who made both of these opportunities possible for high school graduates!

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