Joy for Palestinian and Nigerian students who secured $300,000 scholarships for top US universities
Tara Masri and Sonia Bendre prepare to study at prestigious seats of learning
Tara Masri is a Palestinian teenager with a dream.
She aspires to study politics at a top college in the US and go back to her country to help her community.
The 17-year-old from Nablus is one step closer to making this dream a reality after she won a full-ride scholarship worth more than $307,000 to Middlebury College in Vermont.
Attending the liberal arts school, often touted as one of the most expensive in the country, will be a sea change for Tara, who lives with her parents and her 12-year-old sister in Palestine.
“I feel very privileged to have got this opportunity,” Tara said.
“In Palestine it's very hard to afford such amounts of money for university and my application reflected that I needed a scholarship.
“Middlebury is one of the most expensive liberal arts colleges in the US and it would not have been possible for me to cover the expenses.”
Tara said studying at Middlebury will lead to opportunities for her.
“Here there is a lot of tension in the nearby villages but we are safe," Tara said.
“There is a saying that Palestinians are born talking about politics, and I feel like politics is an integral part of my life.
“Studying in the US will introduce me to a new realm of international human rights.
“It will help me understand and raise awareness of the different injustices happening around the world.
“My goal is to come back to Palestine and give back to my community.”
Tara has lived in Nablus all her life and studied at an American school.
In her spare time, she takes part in activities like the Model United Nations, has tutored others, and was part of a club dedicated to informing people about Palestinian history.
"I worked hard to get good grades and participated in extracurricular activities," she said.
Dubai consultancy helps remove barriers to higher education
Hale Education Group, a consultancy in Dubai that offers mentoring and admissions counselling to pupils, helped the teenager apply for universities and scholarships.
A full-ride scholarship covers the total cost of attendance for four years of undergraduate studies and includes tuition fees, accommodation, food, insurance and, living expenses.
Sonia Bendre, a 19-year-old Nigerian teenager, was accepted at three top US universities and will be heading to Ivy League Dartmouth College in New Hampshire this autumn.
Tara and Sonia were in need of full scholarships to attend university, and Hale Education Group in Dubai helped the teens apply to colleges and for funding free of charge.
Since 2018, the Hale Scholars Programme has helped 10 pupils who are high achievers and from low-income backgrounds access education at top US universities.
Sleepless nights give way to jubilation
Sonia was delighted to receive a full scholarship worth $304,000 to pursue her bachelor's studies in engineering at Dartmouth.
She will be travelling to the US to start her studies in September.
“I definitely needed a scholarship to attend college,” said Sonia.
“I cannot be more appreciative of everything Hale Education Group helped me with."
Sonia is of Indian descent, grew up in Nigeria and will be joining her brother in the US.
As a safety net, the pupil applied to 20 colleges there.
“After I got a few rejections, I was losing my confidence but my counsellor was very supportive," she said.
“I had very little confidence in myself as an applicant but my counsellor reassured me.”
In March, the acceptances and scholarships trickled in one after the other.
“I was very nervous when I knew the decisions were coming out. I could not sleep the entire night," she said.
“I got the acceptance from Vanderbilt University at 3am and I was so excited that I woke my mother up.
“When I got the acceptance from Dartmouth College I did not tell anyone I was opening the letter. When I saw the acceptance, I screamed and called the family.
"I needed a scholarship to be able to afford eduction in the US.
"The pandemic has affected everyone and I was trying to get into college with scholarships."
After she finishes her degree in engineering at Dartmouth College, Sonia hopes to work in the field of sustainable technology.
She is interested in helping developing countries find technological systems that work for their environment.
Supporting students 'my way of giving back'
Hale Education Group has supported many high achieving students who may not have the funds to pursue their goals.
"Many of these students have got scholarships and this is my way of giving back to society,” said Peter Davos, founder of Hale Education Group.
"For high achieving students coming from challenging backgrounds, we help them get scholarships.
“We offer our services pro-bono to high achieving students from challenging socio-economic conditions."
Mr Davos described helping underprivileged students as the best part of his job.
"It makes me feel amazing," he said.
"My hope is that they will play a role in the community."
At present, Hale Education Group is seeking deserving candidates from across the region whom they can help access education.
Updated: May 22, 2021 09:21 PM