Amazing News at Open Dreams - 2017 Update
It is with great pride and a warm heart that I’m writing with some very special updates from the Team at Open Dreams. The year of 2017 has been an extraordinary and unique one thus far for Open Dreams in that we’ve accomplished a few major milestones as we focus on bringing higher education opportunities to high-achieving students in Cameroon. Many of these accomplishments have come in the midst of an unprecedented government-censured shutdown of the internet in Bamenda and Northwest Cameroon, where we have our primary base operations and the location of the Open Dreams Center. This simply reinforces the “can-do” spirit of our mentees and team on the ground, overcoming challenges and adversity and proving that if you really believe in dreams, they can come true.
First Open Dreams Scholars receive full scholarships
Maeva (first row, second from left) to attend McGill University on a full scholarship!
As an organization focused on helping our students attain full-time university scholarships, one of the highest awards we strive for is the MasterCard Scholarship, which awards winners a full-time scholarship at participating global universities along with a condition that the student must return to his hometown to improve their community post-graduation. We are extremely proud to announce our very first MasterCard Scholarship Recipients in the history of Open Dreams: Mohammed Awal Yaya & Maeva Che!
Mohammed Awal Yaya will pursue a university education at the University of Toronto while Maeva Che will enroll at the prestigious McGill University in Montreal this Autumn. Both have worked extremely hard over the past couple years - improving their essays, test scores and interview skills - and they are very deserving of this high honor.
Mohammed is from an indigenous community in Cameroon called the Mbororos, typically specializing in cattle rearing where schooling is not particularly part of their culture so Mohammed is certainly blazing a unique trail. Hopefully, their achievements will open the doors for more Open Dreams mentees to follow in their footsteps as they represent the ideal symbol of the mission of Open Dreams. We have also had many students reach the finalist round of MasterCard Scholarships for various schools but came just short of the ultimate prize. We wish both Mohammed and Maeva the best of luck in their future endeavors!
Two Students selected to prestigious college preparation school in South Africa
The African Leadership Academy (ALA) is an advanced education college preparatory campus in Johannesburg, South Africa, recruiting talented and high-achieving students across Africa. The mission of ALA is to develop the next generation of African leaders, selecting future stars through a rigorous application and talent-search identification process.
This year, we are incredibly happy to announce our first ever ALA Scholarship recipients - Brain Njiowei & Jelissa Cecile Kayo! Both of these Open Dreams mentees have worked diligently on their studies, essays and applications, working with our team of mentors to prepare for this great honor. Brain and Jelissa will travel to South Africa and begin studies at ALA for 2 years with the intent to later matriculate into a full, 4-year university after a stringent college preparatory process.
We are currently launching a fundraiser to help them each pay their annual family portion of the scholarship which is significant. Visit Support a Dreamer now to donate and help them achieve their dreams!
Open Dreams was also privileged to be contacted directly by the Director of Partnerships at ALA for a potential partnership. We have submitted an application to partner with the ALA to source students directly from Cameroon, opening up many more scholarships for our mentees. We are excitedly awaiting a decision from ALA within the next month.
Nji Collins beat out 1600 other students from around the world, to be selected as the first African winner of the Google competition
Not to be outdone by all the scholarship award winners, one of our students has recently achieved a truly remarkable feat, even unprecedented in the history of Africa. In January, Nji Collins Gbah won Google’s annual global coding competition – a worldwide event incorporating coders and developers from across the globe.
Scarcely knowing one thing about coding just 2 years ago, Collins fully taught himself using online sources and books that he read. Hailing from Bamenda, Colllins has instantly become an overnight sensation in Cameroon and his achievement has catapulted him to celebrity-like status, appearing in TV and Radio shows across the country. Even more, global publications from the Economist to BBC (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38922819) have written articles about our local coding genius.
His achievement is further proof that talent and intellect is truly global and through hard work and persistence, an ambitious student can achieve anything. Collins will be traveling to San Francisco this summer to participate in a month-long Google immersion program along with other winners. Our hats are off to this Google champion and the family at Open Dreams wishes him the best of luck! Hooray!
A New Year Ahead in spite of Political Strife
To conclude, it has been whirlwind of activities and honors at Open Dreams over the past 4 months – perhaps the most significant period of time we have encountered during our young existence as an organization.
Many of the accomplishments of our mentees have occurred despite the continual political hardship they face with the internet outage in Bamenda. Having to work without the guidance of our foreign-based mentors has been quite a challenge, but our team on the ground – led by Miss Veronique Hob-Hob and Mr. Akaba James – have ensured a successful completion of the tasks at hand. We couldn’t be happier and prouder of our mentees that have proven that persistence and hard work cedes to nothing in accomplishing a dream.
Our mentees are currently applying for university scholarships in places such as Russia, Costa Rica, Europe, Turkey, Africa and Asia while we continue our efforts to provide some sort of internet solution, even if it means traveling 7 hours south to Yaounde and staying in hotels. However, our commitment to opening dreams for our mentees is steadfast and unwavering and we cannot be denied by the political pressures of Cameroon.
We are currently preparing to recruit a new batch of mentees to start the Open Dreams Summer Program, which should garner a strong turnout given the recent successes. We are also recruiting new mentors that are dedicated to the higher education cause for our mentees – please let us know if you can recommend anyone.
As always, we thank you for your support, encouragement and love along our journey towards helping talented students reach their ambitions through education.