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ASU holds first convening of MasterCard Foundation Scholars


April 17, 2013

According to the International Labor Organization, more than 2.2 million youth are expected to enter the labor force each year in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2011 and 2015. To seize this opportunity, The MasterCard Foundation and a collaborative, global network of education institutions and nonprofit organizations, including Arizona State University, will educate more than 15,000 young people over the next 10 years.

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program provides secondary and university education to bright, motivated young people from disadvantaged communities – particularly from Africa – who are committed to making a difference in their communities. The program is designed to provide them with comprehensive support for them to successfully transition into the workforce and contribute to social progress. This support includes quality education, mentoring, career advice, community service opportunities, and internships through a network of employers in Africa. Arizona State University is a proud partner of The MasterCard Foundation, and welcomed 10 scholars this fall and will welcome 110 additional scholars in the years to come.

Over 50 of these future leaders and the staff and administrators from 15 organizations convened at Arizona State University from April 12-14 to begin the design process of building a Scholars Network committed to “give back, go back” and lifelong learning. The meeting began on Friday, April 12 and included attendees from units across ASU that support the Scholars Program, ASU President Michael Crow and President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation Reeta Roy.

President Crow emphasized how The MasterCard Foundation’s commitment to inclusivity and access to education deeply resonates with the New American University approach wherein “a public university is an institution committed equally to everyone regardless of family background, income, or status; regardless of the structure of your family, your ethnic identity. The only thing that is relevant is: who is ready to do university work?”

Reeta Roy echoed her appreciation of the alignment the organizations’ missions and shared her journey from childhood to a successful career. Like The MasterCard Foundation Scholars, she attended college and graduate school on scholarship. The significance of that gift and the one being made to the recipients was not lost on her. “I think of myself still as that small town girl from Ipoh, Malaysia. When I think of that and look at all of you here, I know I am looking at leaders.”

The scholars themselves spoke of a desire to return to their home countries after graduation to give back and create positive change. Ibrahima Diop, an ASU student from Senegal, confidently painted his vision, “In the place where I come from, I spent countless nights trying to finish my homework by candlelight. I want to replace candlelights with light bulbs in Senegal. I want the lights from Senegal to be seen from space. It is a dream, a seed being nurtured by The MasterCard Foundation.”

During the convening, Ansi Harford, director of the Africa Careers Network at the African Leadership Academy, launched the online platform that the scholars will utilize to secure internships and ultimately job placements. There are currently more than 100 internships listed on the site in a number of African companies and countries. The internships range from large companies like Google, IBM, and Procter and Gamble, down to smaller entrepreneurial and social ventures like Sanergy in Kenya, and Enough is Enough in Nigeria.

Throughout the weekend, many ASU departments and organizations supported the convening:

• Dean of Students Office on the Downtown Phoenix campus supported the use of the new Student Center @ The Post Office on April 13.

• Team Challenge from the Sun Devil Fitness Center led the Scholars’ first team building activities.

• Changemaker Central and the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus hosted the convening on April 14, a fitting location for a group of future change agents.

The final day of the convening was a mixture of productivity, reflection, and great expectations. In a closing reflection activity, participants stood in a circle outside of the Memorial Union and shared their commitments to the Scholars Network. One Scholar’s simple statement summed up all of the emotion: “I believe this group is going to change Africa.”

As a group electrified by a shared vision, it was clear to see that Arizona State University and The MasterCard Foundation are beginning to do exactly that.

Learn more about The MasterCard Foundation’s $500 million 10-year initiative to educate and prepare young people – particularly from Africa – to lead change and make a positive social impact in their communities at www.mastercardfdnscholars.org/.