Left to right- Tabitha Roberts, Shennel Henries, Rita Akoi, Jennifer Maxwell, Janet Kwenah, Lorpu Flomo, Benedette Naame, Sanctus Solomon, Tarlee Dahn, Princess Pewee
The growth of many young women to become change agents and limitless leaders has been often stifled because, while some may be able to acquire quality education, they often lack the mentorship and support to fully meet the challenges defined by society, while pursuing their own personal destinies. To address this quagmire, a U.S.-based international non-profit organization, Supporting Her Education Changes A Nation (SHE-CAN), believes it has a viable way forward.
As the organization has successfully done in two other post-war countries, SHE-CAN has opened its arms to the Liberian community to empower Liberian girls in realizing their full potential in becoming global female leaders who will create new solutions and bring about systemic change.
Just within a period of two weeks in Liberia, SHE-CAN has identified ten outstanding Liberian young women through their competitive selection process to begin an intensive college preparation program that will eventually take them to the United States for college.
Among them are Princess E. Pewee, Tabitha D. Roberts, Janet C. Kwenah, Lorpu A. Flomo.
Lorpu, 18, is an undergraduate student at the University of Liberia, majoring in Biology. Her dream is to become a neurosurgeon.
"I choose to serve humanity in a different way. Since I can't be an advocate to speak up, let me be a servant at least to provide service for people and help my country correct some of the wrongs by empowering specialized doctors who will advocate to the government to provide all necessary equipment."
Lorpu narrated she had a cousin who suffered from brain sickness when he had an accident, "because Liberia doesn't have access to the required equipment and that kind of medical doctor, we lost him. He was a graduating senior from UL at the time and my uncle's only son."
Another scholar, Janet Kwenah, already runs her own non-for-profit organization, 'Think Kids Liberia' (TKL), where 30 kids are benefitting from programs that allow them to explore their creativity. According to her, TKL will celebrate their first anniversary on November 29.
The other scholars are mostly freshmen and sophomore students, studying sociology. Many of them currently volunteer with NGOs and non-for-profit organizations within their communities, giving them a foretaste of what women empowerment and leadership beyond the classroom means.
SHE-CAN prepares low-income young women from post-conflict countries to be leaders and change-agents by first helping them win full scholarships to undergraduate colleges and universities throughout the United States. Currently active in Rwanda and Cambodia, the organization has placed 46 scholars at top U.S. schools since it was founded in 2011.
Some of the colleges mentioned are Beloit College, Lafayette College, Gettysburg College, Northwestern University and Bucknell University, among others.
To accept the lowest income students possible, SHE-CAN, through its investment portal, offers a unique financial assistance program to fund costs for young women's education that most international students, even those on scholarship cannot afford, a statement from the organization says.
According to a press release, SHE-CAN believes that although providing college education is their cornerstone, education alone is not enough to prepare leaders to be change agents; therefore, each scholar is matched with a team of five U.S. mentors who actively support a scholar through every step of the process. Presently, the organization has enlisted more than 225 people who have dedicated their time to mentor the scholars. The team of mentors comprises a cadre of exceptional women and a few men. High-level experts and speakers have also been recruited to inspire the scholars and help them shape their skills, commitments and passion by providing ongoing leadership training through retreats and workshops.
SHE-CAN also has plans to pair the scholars with Liberian mentors who can provide in-country guidance and support.
In this light, the organization has chosen to work closely with one of Liberia's outstanding women groups, the Angie Brooks International Center (ABIC) for Women's Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security, headed by Cllr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh, to help identify top Liberian scholars for their program. Other organizations and agencies in the SHE-CAN Liberia network include the Ministry of Gender, SMART Liberia, Future Development Institute (FDI), the U.S. Embassy, YONER, West Point Women, and the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa among others.
SHE-CAN was founded by Barbara Bylenga who is currently their Executive Director. The organization works virtually from San Francisco with the help of their Liberia Program Coordinator, Tendra Tenwah-Gweh who is a founding partner and Executive Director of the Future Development Initiative.
For more information on SHE-CAN please visit their website at www.shecan.global.
J. Lisa Lumeh