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Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students

by Education Matters
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Fund College Access for USAP Zimbabwe Students
Nothando's 1st Snow at Carleton College, Minnesota

As the leaves change colors, the temperatures drop, the school work intensifies and the reality of four years of intense college life far from home becomes clear. Our cohort of 39 students are all settling in well at their colleges and universities in Rwanda, Scotland, Ghana, Canada, Mauritius and all over the United States. They get in touch with snippets of their challenges, adjustments and triumphs - whether it is learning to live with a roommate who grew up so differently from them to adjusting to new accents and people not understanding theirs or tackling how to write a research paper when coming from a math and science A level background. Adjustment is the name of the game. So many firsts - first foods, first snows, first experiences. And the best part of trying to balance all that is new and different with the intense academic demands is that they are not alone. We here of group Skype calls, long chats in the social USAP What's App group and even visits to USAPers in neighboring places. Knowing you are not alone is a comfort in and of itself. We are excited with our students' level of initiative - so many are trying new things, joining clubs and sports and activities, singing in acapella groups, jumping into community service projects. All of these will contribute tremendously to their educational experience, on top of excelling in very demanding courses. We have attached a few links here to some of their blog posts - you can access our blog on Once again, we thank you, our individual donors, for believing in these students and supporting them on their road to college. Our next cohort is busy with their A level exams, at the same time completing ED/EA college applications with November deadlines. Your funds will help with application processing fees. Next year it will be their turn. Thank you!

Wayne and Yolanda, Smith USAP sisters
Wayne and Yolanda, Smith USAP sisters
Off to college
Off to college

A year ago we were saying goodbye to our first cohort of Education Matters USAP students, and you donated to help pay for their enrollment costs - visa and SEVIS fees, immunizations, air tickets.  We are writing to report that after their first year at university, they are doing well and going strong!

We sent the USAP cohort a survey at the end of their freshman year and learned of their triumphs and challenges and their plans for relating their studies to future goals of making change at home and globally.  Some of them came back to the Continent this summer.  Three were part of the Zimbabwe Career Connect Internship Program, interning with companies and with non-profit organizations here in Zimbabwe.  Another came home with a research grant to look at how mbira music is part of social fabric and social change.  Yes another partnered with a Rwandan friend and an engineering professor to work on a hydroponics project for schools in Rwanda and eventually in Zimbabwe to be able to grow vegetables in their dining halls.

In our survey, 55% said they had changed their intended major after their first year of university and all of the exposure it had afforded.  In terms of deriving support while overseas from their USAP cohort, 45% of them said they are in touch with their cohort members daily with another 32% saying so weekly.   The survey detailed many achievements our students have reached in just their first year including academic prizes, paid internships, leadership positions, and invitations to conferences and innovation summits.

USAPers join us in being very grateful for your support, without which they wouldn't have been able to access top university educations.  One of our rising sophomores summarized his gratitude this way:

"I am always grateful that I was afforded this invaluable opportunity to come out of my environment, and get into a new one which is totally different from what I was used to. I value this experience and I believe that this is more than seeking an academic education, but it is developing a wholistic individual who is set apart form the crowd. The opportunities to make a difference in the world are many.  USAP is indeed a family, a home away from home.  I am very grateful."

Accessing a college education for a qualified student should be a right, but it is still very much a priviledge. We are really pleased that with your help, we have made our financial goal of raising $25,000 over this past year to cover the student expenses needed for our first Education Matters cohort who are now in colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Scotland, Ghana and Rwanda.   Your generous donations have enabled these students to access amazing educational opportunities by financing their application costs such as SAT fees and CSS financial aid application fees as well as the many hidden costs involved in enrolling, including visa fees, immunizations and air tickets. 

This fund also financed SAT fees for the second Education Matters USAP Cohort of 42 who are currently submitting their applications.  We are closing this project and launching a new $25,000 project for the second cohort's expenses, in time for Giving Tuesday on Nov 28.  We hope you will continue to support us with this new amazing group of USAP students hoping to start studies in 2018.

One of this year's USAP students recently wrote: "It's not even a whole semester yet, but my mind has been stretched in so many new ways.  My heart stays at home, though my body is here.  I can't wait to reunite all three."   

Our students' successes are your successes - we couldn't have done it without you. 


Visiting a student and his family at their home
Visiting a student and his family at their home

This project report is a submission to GlobalGiving’s 2017 Fail Forward Contest, where organizations are asked to share a story of when they tried something new that didn’t go as planned and how they learned from it. Enjoy!

For years we worked under the assumption that USAP students telling their families why they were spending their holidays at application bootcamps in Harare or their precious A level study time preparing for SAT exams or their choices for where they were going to college was enough.  Our program worked directly with students; they in turn were left to share that information, or not, with their families.  

This assumption proved to be a major deficit in our program design. Without parents and guardians working together with the students and with USAP as a team, we would at times confront crises and challenges throughout the student's application enrollment process.  Students would ask their parents for sensitive family finance information in order to complete their financial aid forms, for example, and be told that in Shona culture, a child does not ask his parents about money.  Students would delay applying for a passport because the family hadn't had sufficient warning to save for its cost, and jeopardize having enough time to get a visa for college.  And without knowing a student's family context except for that which they had reported to us on an application, we were not always able to be the best college counselors for that student as s/he planned her future course.

But how were we to get to know the families of our USAP students?  A letter would be one-way communication that was limited and wouldn't allow for their questions.  They were scattered all over the country, and so the cost of them traveling to our office was prohibitive.  Most were not online and many did not have Smart phones.  

After learning from our mistake and the holes it left in our program, we decided to fail forward and dedicate substantial monetary and staff time resources to visit each and every student in their home.  This past year we started the USAP home visit program - traveling as far as nine hours to reach a student's home, whether urban or rural, on or off Google Maps, and sit down with the people who the student deemed as his or her family. These meetings have been incredibly fruitful in ways we didn't even imagine at first.  Parents, no matter what their income or education level, have the same concerns for their children - they want them to prosper, to reach their potential, to be safe and happy.  We share our process and our program, answer their questions, and most importantly build a level of trust while getting to know each other.  We learn so much more about our students, too, by simply seeing them in their home settings, and that will inevitably allow us to write stronger letters of recommendations for their college applications.  

The USAP home visit program, which grew out of recognizing a deficit in our program model, has given us the assurance that famliies of our students will feel comfortable approaching us with their questions and concerns, not only now, but once their children have left for international studies.   By listening, learning and acting, we have been able to close a major hole and bring our USAP family closer.

Meeting place for USAP Family visit:Rural Chiweshe
Meeting place for USAP Family visit:Rural Chiweshe
On the road: 1600km of home visits
On the road: 1600km of home visits
USAP Bootcamp August 2017
USAP Bootcamp August 2017

We are happy to update you on the progress of our cohort of 42 USAP students. 

As the jacarandas, aka "exam trees", come into full bloom in Zimbabwe, our USAP students are preparing for both SAT and A level exams.  Many wrote their SAT Reasoning or Subject Tests on Saturday, 7 October, and all will start their month of intensive A level exams in the next two weeks.  We wish them all the best of luck and thank you for your support which enabled us to pay for standardized test fees for them.

In August we held a fantastic weeklong "application bootcamp" on the shores of Lake Chivero.  Our 15 USAP Zambia student colleagues traveled down to join us for a vibrant week of college essay writing, workshops on the Common Application, college selection and financial aid forms.   Our aim in having our students intensively work on their applications in August is to allow them to be prepared to apply during Early Decision/Early Action application rounds despite their intensive October/November exam schedules.  The bootcamp, including daily mindfulness sessions during gorgeous sunsets, allowed the cohort to bond more deeply.

We are now raising funds for the other half of the cohort to write SAT Exams in December after they complete their A levels and to pay for the fees needed to submit their CSS Profile financial aid forms.  We appreciate your continued support. 


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Organization Information

Education Matters

Location: Harare - Zimbabwe
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @edmattersafrica
Project Leader:
Rebecca Zeigler Mano
Harare, Zimbabwe

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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