Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program

With only rare exceptions, my blog posts focus on a person, place, or episode “at the base of the pyramid," a delightful place of indescribable beauty, intrigue, and unpredictable reflections. But I must acknowledge that such is not the place where I spend most of my time, nor is it the primary focus of Bridge2Rwanda, nor does it offer an accurate depiction of the New Rwanda and it's spectacular progress toward achieving its well-crafted and articulated vision. (Google: Rwanda Vision 2020). In this post I focus on one of Bridge2Rwanda's core projects: The Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program.

In 2009 in New York City, President Kagame challenged Bridge2Rwanda to develop a program to “burst the bottlenecks” that prevent Rwanda’s best students from winning scholarships to study abroad. We launched our first Bridge2Rwanda Scholars gap-year program under Anna Reed's leadership in 2011 with a small pioneer class of Rwanda’s top high school graduates. With support from Kaplan, the global leader in test preparation, the students' test scores improved significantly after five months of study:  

Median TOEFL Score: 593 (out of 677)
All students scored higher than 550 (required score for most U.S. schools)
Highest single score: 650
Average improvement: 29 points
Greatest improvement by a student: 94 points

Median SAT Score: 1610 (out of 2400/ the U.S. average is 1500) 
Highest single score: 1900
Average improvement: 237 points
Greatest improvement by a student: 493 points

Anna Reed and her team are spectacularly successful
in making B2R Scholars "college ready"
From October through January 2012, Anna and her team helped the students prepare essays and submit applications to 107 U.S. universities. On average, each student submitted applications to 10.7 schools. Their results are summarized below:
  • 14 students were awarded and accepted scholarships with a total value of over $2 million (over 4 years)
  • U.S. host families and churches committed over $240,000 in private financial support (over 4 years)
  • U.S. universities include The U.S. Coast Guard Academy, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University, Abilene Christian University, Haverford College, University of Rochester, Grinnell College, La Roche College and California Baptist University
America: "Get ready, 'cause here we come!"
Joris Cyizere
Brilliant and born to lead his nation,
... now even better
In March of this year, from over 350 applicants 30 students were selected for the second B2R Scholars gap-year program. They are presently sitting for admission tests and submitting U.S. university applications. 

In collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, we have begun offering test prep classes for the GRE and TOEFL exams required of candidates for CMU's new Graduate School of Engineering in Kigali. We are also offering test prep classes for the GMAT exam for Rwandan students applying to U.S. graduate business schools.

These may not be the facts and photos which make the most gripping blog post to get a laugh or jerk a tear from family and friends. But this is the real work of Bridge2Rwanda that makes a real difference. Far more than test taking strategies and SAT vocab words, the Program teaches fundamental values such as "servant leadership," which the students passionately embrace. We intend to facilitate study abroad for hundreds of Rwanda's best and brightest students, confident that they will return to Rwanda and become servant leaders in the building of their nation. This is development work at its best.

For more about our core projects, please go to our website: