On July 6, 2019 CAMA stepped into the warm embrace of Kigali, Rwanda to host its first College Readiness Workshop (CRW). CAMA’s CRWs represent a key development in the organization’s development. While CAMA’s Virtual Program remains the hallmark of the organization, CRWs aim to increase interaction with information and foster partnerships with organizations and schools on the ground. The July 2019 College Readiness Workshop (CRW) was a collaborative feat between CAMA, three secondary schools in Kigali and enthusiastic CAMA facilitators. One of the key co-ordinators was Cynthia Mulindi. As a member of CAMA’s Global Team, Cynthia spearheaded the Kigali workshop, ensuring spreadsheets and checklists were translated into an intensive, hands-on college readiness workshop. As we forge ahead with our virtual mentorship program for the 2019-2020 academic year and plan future workshops, we take a moment to reflect on the lessons our students and our team learned from this endeavour, which is best described as an educational adventure.
Interactive. That was the adjective students used when they gave feedback on the workshop. We were thrilled that we managed to strike a balance between equipping students with information but also tossing the figurative microphone around the room to allow each person to share their own knowledge and opinions about important topics such as Writing Personal Statements, Parental Involvement in Financial Aid and Ethics in College Admissions.
As recent graduates and current university students, we know that effective workshops are driven by student curiosity, individual reflection and dialogue. In the workshop, students were encouraged to use their bodies to vote on how ethical an admissions scenario sounded. They wrote their doubts and fears about the college process on the walls, determined to cross them out after the workshop. Students were encouraged to move through the space and interact with peers. One student reflected on their experience, “I enjoyed every single thing about the workshop … [the facilitators] explained everything well about applying and the difference between scholarship and financial aid”. Another student commented that the workshop “was fun… and the people who spoke to us were kind.” Compassion and commitment are two values that underscore CAMA’s mission and the reflection our students offered was a testament to these values and the relationships they quickly fostered with our exceptional facilitators.
Building Capacity. Our invitation for the workshop extended not only to students, but to their teachers as well. CAMA used the workshop as an opportunity to connect with teachers eager to provide support to students in their classes applying abroad. A perceptive and concerned student made a comment that “it would be better if [CAMA] came to schools so that [CAMA] could share [information from the workshop] with [other students], more than we can tell them.” We hope that training teachers will bridge this discrepancy our student pointed out as these teachers use their experience to sow knowledge into current and future classes.
Charting The Future. One of the tips we shared with our students during the workshop was to start planning early. In our upcoming Future Pathways workshop in Accra, Ghana in partnership with a non-profit venture called the Bowney Initiative, we are honing in on this idea of proactive planning by supporting the career exploration process of young girls. Exposure is key and CAMA intends to help the girls question the single path laid before them and instead, design their own roads, underground tunnels and airways.
CAMA is immensely proud of our first CRW and the important development this represents for the organization. However, our strongest emotion is gratitude, to all the advisors, partners and facilitators with whom, none of our efforts to close the higher education gaps would be possible.