Conference explored how to support high-achieving and low-income African students

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Many participants in the HALI conference found the gathering to be "life-changing, transformative, and inspiring," said Rebekah Westphal, director of international admissions at Yale, who helped organize the event.

Representatives from nonprofit organizations from across the African continent gathered April 11-14 in Harare, Zimbabwe to share best practices about how to support high-achieving and low-income (HALI) students in their search for a quality university education. 

The gathering, the first of its kind, was conceived of and organized by Rebecca Zeigler Mano, founder/director of the United States Achievers Program (USAP) and director of education matters in Zimbabwe, and Rebekah Westphal, director of international admissions at Yale University. The event was supported by the Higherlife Foundation.

Conference sessions focused on program goals and structure, selection of student participants, exploring suitable college options, the application process and post-graduation plans. The conference also allowed student advisers to work on challenges they face in common — from advising students through the financial aid application process to preparing students for their trip to their United States. 

Each evening attendees also had the opportunity to share their own personal story of how they started working with HALI students.  The 21 organizations work in more than 30 countries across Africa. This year they are supporting 871 students and have worked with almost 2,500 students in the past. The founders and directors of these organizations expressed appreciation that so many on the continent were working to achieve the same goals and that there might be much more collaboration between programs in the future.    

“It was incredible to be with a group of people dedicated to and passionate about supporting HALI students from all across Africa,” said Westphal.  “Many of those attending said that the gathering was life-changing, transformative, and inspiring.  I think we all left with renewed vigor for the work we do with these students.  We believe that the sum can be greater than the parts, and we plan to form an association that will provide support and resources to similar organizations from the continent.”

The group members said they look forward to serving as resources for each other and to developing partnerships with additional HALI organizations across the continent.  The hope is that this group will become a more formal association that will work to promote the support of African HALI students at universities around the world.

The participating organizations were: Abaarso; Ahaspora Young Professionals; Akili Dada; Akwanya; Bridge2Rwanda; Education Matters; Education and Social Empowerment Program; Equity Group Foundation; Higherlife Foundation; JOE–EducationUSA; Kenya Scholar-Athlete Program; Makomborero; Nolbed Foundation; Our Moon Education; Pestalozzi International Village Trust; Rwanda Girls Initiative; SHE-CAN; Tanzania Student Achievers Organization; United States Achievers Program Nigeria; Yale Young African Scholars Program;and  Zawadi Africa.

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