We hope you have had a wonderful summer thus far and it has been as eventful as it has at Open Dreams. Given the many new happenings and on-goings at the inaugural Open Dreams Summer Academy, we felt it was appropriate to give you an update of everything happening at the Open Dreams Center in Bamenda, Cameroon!
Open Dreams Summer Academy
Under the admirable leadership of Veronique and James at the Open Dreams Center in Bamenda, Cameroon, we have grown in leaps and bounds this summer. As the school bells at the local high school rang at the beginning of summer, 14 eager youths were selected to join our Open Dreams Summer Academy, designed to be an intense program to prepare our students for the rigors of college applications and exam test-taking. In addition, we’ve included a new twist into our program – community service! As we’ve noticed that this is one of the key ingredients missing from many of our students' resumes, we wanted to encourage our students to take a more proactive role in transforming their local community. Each of our pre-mentees took an active role with the Bamenda City Council, performing jobs such as sanitation and quality assurance inspection in local restaurants, cleaning up city streets, ensuring best practices within the government and volunteering at local orphanages (see related blog posts on this site). Meeting for 8 or 9 hours a day, the mentees have been diligently preparing for the college process – giving reports of US universities, researching scholarship opportunities such as those offered by the MasterCard Foundation, taking practice SAT Exams, refining their essay-writing capabilities, listening to presentations by inspirational speakers and conducting interviews and being tutored by Open Dreams staff.
In addition, we have invited Admissions Officers from schools such as McGill University, Columbia University and Earth University to speak with our students about the application and scholarship process in live Skype sessions where students can ask questions and interact and with Admissions Officers on a projector. This has been a very exciting innovation made possible by technology and reliable Wi-Fi and we hope this exposure will put Open Dreams and our students on the minds of Admissions Officers.
Throughout the process, the group has grown closer as a team, encouraging each other and building the bonds that will undoubtedly carry on at the next level. One of our explicit intentions for the Summer Program was to identify each participant’s internal drive, leadership skills, communication skills, dedication and intangible skill sets – character attributes that are nearly impossible to ascertain during the course of a simple interview. These characteristics are essential ingredients in building personal success and ones that we wanted to assess over the course of a 10-week long “interview” process. As our program draws to a close at this Saturday’s Open Dreams Summer Academy graduation ceremony, we will reward 5-7 of the original mentees with a spot into our full-time Open Dreams program. We have designed the program in this manner so that we can focus and concentrate our limited resources on the very best and brightest students who have demonstrated a passion for excellence and improvement along their journey and possess an outstanding opportunity to succeed at the next level. We want to ensure that we’re giving our students adequate preparation for the rigorous process and along those lines, we need to ensure each student sets reasonable expectations. We’ve learned from previous years that many students may have had higher expectations only to be dismayed when capabilities and outcomes didn’t match their lofty goals. We are confident that the students we select to join the core Open Dreams curriculum will have a strong chance of succeeding in their endeavors.
HALI Access Network Membership
We are proud to announce, that through Veronique’s diligence and leadership, we’ve been selected to join the HALI Access Network Membership community in Africa as the first organization from Cameroon!
“The HALI Access Network is an association of organizations in Africa that work with high-achieving, low-income (HALI) students to access higher education opportunities. The organizations strives to level the playing field in international education to increase inclusion, access and scholarship support for remarkable students who only lack finances to make their educational dreams come true. HALI Access Network believes in the power of education to change communities and in the impact our students have on college and university campuses.”
See our full profile here: http://haliaccess.org/ha li-directory/open-dreams/#!
We hope that this membership will be a fruitful one in helping our students navigate the application process and open opportunities for the next level. This organization exemplifies the exact model of community and support that we’re trying to grow and foster within Open Dreams. We couldn’t be happier to become a member of HALI and we’re confident it’ll be a very beneficial one for our organization but most importantly, for our students.
Recent Open Dreams Success Stories
We’d like to briefly mention a few success stories of members within the Open Dreams Organization that we’d like to share with you:
Rex Tambua – Rex has been one of our most determined and diligent students over the past 2 years. Recently, his efforts were rewarded with a full scholarship to study Computer Science at the People’s Friendship University of Russia. The Scholarship, named The Russian Government Scholarship, is part of a partnership with the Russian and Cameroonian government. He will be learning and studying in Russian for the very first time and hopefully will bring his adept soccer skills to his new country! Best of luck Rex!
Ashley – Ashley joined Open Dreams in the Summer of 2015, showing up at the center with persistent patience after missing the application deadline during the Spring. Her persistence and commitment to excellence paid off with a partial scholarship to attend St. Mary’s University in Minnesota, covering most of her tuition. She had also gained acceptance at McGill University in Canada including a partial scholarship, but decided to take her talents to the great North State of Minnesota. We wish Ashley all the best in her endeavors.
Blaise Buma – Yes, our very own co-Founder, Blaise Buma, will be participating in a very prestigious academic program through the Schwarzman Scholarship Program in Beijing, China. Dubbed the “Scholarship of the 21st Century”, the scholarship awardees will participate in an intensive immersion experience at Tsinghua University with the goal of building the next generation of future leaders in the world. Surrounded by a community of thinkers, innovators and senior leaders from across the globe, the young leaders will explore subjects in public policy, economics, business and international relations with a specific focus on understanding China’s role in global trends.
This is Blaise’s intro for the Schwarzman Scholars program: http://haliaccess.org/ha li-directory/open-dreams/#!
We know that Blaise will continue to develop and master his leadership skills and will bring back many great ideas to the Open Dreams Organization. Currently, Blaise in en route to Beijing travelling aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway through Russia and Mongolia, exploring the world at the fullest. We wish Blaise all the best in China!
Baby News – We happy to announce that we're due to welcome our very first baby to the Open Dreams Community! Cristina and I are pleased to share this exciting news with you as we wait in eager anticipation the arrival in December. Hopefully, someday in the future, the baby will bring much joy and positive change to the Open Dreams Organization. And we are always open to advice and wisdom on this new parental endeavor if you feel like sharing!!
Thank you, once again, for helping make all of this possible - for your advice, support, encouragement and belief - in some way, shape or fashion.
Let's keep the hard work and good news rolling.