The New Times (Kigali)

5 May 2012

Rwanda: Girls Win U.S. Scholarships

Four Rwandan girls were lucky winners of scholarships to the US colleges.

The girls are Rina Ntagozera heading to Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, Sharon Damas Batamuriza going to Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, Charlotte Mugisha to Whitman College in Walla, Washington and Denyse Niwenshuti destined for Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

They were helped acquire scholarships by Open A Door, a non-profit organisation.

The organization is dedicated to helping talented young women from Rwanda gain access to university scholarship opportunities in the US, and then return home to become agents of change in the country.

Another participant, Melissa Kamanzi, hopes to attend Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where she is wait listed.

In an Interview with The New Times, Barbara Bylenga, Founder and President Open A Door, said the programme creates future female leaders.

"Our programme involves conducting a thorough interview process to find the best and brightest young women. Candidates were nominated by FAWE, Imbuto Foundation as well as other organisations. After selecting the girls, Open A Door provides them with SAT and TOEFL training preparation classes and then matches them with US mentors who help them navigate the college application and financial aid processes," Bylenga said.

She further said the girls are offered mentors who also negotiate scholarships and provide emotional support when they set off to US.

"This programme aimed at identifying and guiding girls from top high school graduates through the admissions and financial aid processes in order to gain US degrees and return home as change-makers. It's an annual programme. A total of seven Rwandan girls applied to 32 schools and four of the seven won full scholarships to top US colleges. Each scholarship is worth approximately USD225, 000."

According to Susan Mbabazi, Program Director Open A Door, there are challenges met when selecting candidates to participate in the Programme.

"One of the challenges we have been facing is getting the right girls with the exact qualities to compete effectively with the US competitors. The scholarships are not for international students only but US students, too," Mbabazi said.

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