In 2009, President Paul Kagame asked Dale Dawson and Bridge2Rwanda (B2R) to create a second program to “burst the bottlenecks” that were still preventing Rwanda’s top students from competing effectively for international scholarships. The goal was to continue growing the number of Rwandan students studying abroad, but without the significant financial burden of the Rwandan Presidential Scholars.
In response to His Excellency’s request, B2R launched theBridge2Rwanda Scholars program in early 2011.The program helps talented Rwandan students to get into prestigious schools in USA, Canada and Europe with scholarships. The gap year program started in 2011 and two classes have now graduated with 24 students.
According to Patrick Rukundo one of the graduates, Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program is more than a gap year program, it is a second home. Not only do they prepare students to have good education but also they help them to go through the transition before they are sent to school.
“When you get the chance to be a B2R scholar, you are exposed to successful people from all around the world. We are encouraged to be servant leaders who will bring a change in Rwanda and be the bridge by connecting Rwanda with other countries,” remarked Rukundo.
Their next priorities are to share information and resources on the process with schools throughout Rwanda, in order to serve more students and help more Rwandan students prepare and get admitted to international universities on scholarships.
According to Richard Siegler, Academic Director of B2R, results for the first and second classes have been excellent. 34 scholars have been admitted to international universities and have received scholarships worth over $5 million in total over a period of four years.
The selection process is highly competitive (35 participants were chosen in 2013 from 1200 applicants) and the scholars program is provided free of charge to the students.
“The 9 scholarships above funded by the MasterCard Foundation are the early results for Rwanda of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars program, a $500 million initiative to send African students to U.S. universities over the next 8 years. We will work with partner schools and Rwanda’s Minsitry of Education to help Rwandan students earn as many of these MasterCard Scholarships as possible,” said Siegler.
B2R Scholars is a ten-month gap-year program (March to January) that prepares recent high school graduates to compete for admission and scholarships to universities in the U.S. and around the world. To address the primary bottlenecks, the program is designed to help students significantly improve their English language skills, raise their scores on English proficiency and university admission tests and navigate the detailed admissions process required by international universities.