World ORT has set the stage for disadvantaged teenagers to shine this summer in a month of classes at Tel Aviv university.
The 25 high schoolers have emerged from a rigorous selection process to join the university’s regular “ﾘsummer semester’ which is normally used by adult undergraduates who elect to do some extra study in their spare time and new students undergoing special introductory courses before taking up their places in September. All 25 kids have been pursuing courses at World ORT’s YOU-niversities, or Centres of Excellence, which offer high quality extra-curricular classes for the relatively disadvantaged communities of Nazareth, Kiryat Gat, Dimona, Tsfat and Nahariya.
“They are all from families in which no-one has a university degree but they have displayed the academic ability and strength of character which have convinced us that they will overcome the significant challenges in their lives to become the first,”? said Dr Ido Horresh, Director of the YOU-niversity Centres for Science and Technology programme.
The teenagers will have to draw on both over the coming weeks as they sit alongside students in their 20s learning at an undergraduate level in academic English and face an exam at the end of it.
“This is an amazing programme; it’s like the X-Factor for education,”? Dr Horresh said. “These kids have come from obscurity, have battled through the auditions and now they are on the stage where they can give full expression to their talents. And at the end of it, if they pass the exams, they will have a bright future to look forward to because they will have earned credits which will count towards any degree they decide to take at any institution anywhere in the world.”?
The programme has been run by Tel Aviv University in previous years with the support of the Lautman Fund, which was set up by Israeli industrialist Dov Lautman to promote formal and informal education. This is the first year that World ORT, through its programmatic arm in Israel, Kadima Mada, has become a partner.
World ORT is paying for the kids not only to take the course, but also for their full board and lodging, and additional tutoring and counselling. Each of them also has a personal mentor, someone who has been through the summer semester and can offer practical support.
“The opportunity to take part in this programme is an added level of incentive for our YOU-niversity students to apply themselves and to succeed. And at the end of it I will offer them a job as a tutor and guide in their YOU-niversity next year,”? said Dr Horresh.
“They appreciate just what an amazing opportunity this is,”? he continued. “The mother of one our students was in tears of joy as she accompanied her daughter at this week’s opening ceremony; it’s not like a dream, it’s as if Moshiach had come “ﾓ that’s the language they’re using.”?
The student in question was Daniela Lulu, the granddaughter of olim from Yemen. Her mother has a string of menial jobs to maintain the family as her husband is disabled and unable to work. Her family was too poor to buy a computer so Daniela had to go to neighbours to do her homework. That changed when the Jewish Federations of North America and World ORT together gave her and other deserving students a laptop each during last year’s rocket attacks so that they could continue studying while their schools were closed.
Daniela tops her classes in Mathematics, Physics and English and is also a member of the students’ council. According to her Principal at Shalon High School, Ruthie Ben Sa’adon, she is a “natural-born leader”?.
But her circumstances are such that the idea of pursuing a degree would have been unthinkable before the opportunities presented to her by World ORT.
“I would have been babysitting my little brother this summer if it weren’t for this course,”? Daniela, 16, said. “Now my grandmother will be looking after him.”?
She is on the course with her friend “ﾓ and fellow YOU-niversity student “ﾓ Ilana Priv.
“We’re very excited to be doing this. It’s very difficult because we need to learn academic English but we’re getting help. We’re enjoying it; it’s fun,”? she said.
Her family is proud of her, she went on, and hopes are high that she will be the first of them to go through university.
“My mother always says that she wants me to be excellent in school because she never had the chance to finish her formal education. I would like to study medicine and I think that what I’m doing now will definitely help me to do that.”?