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GambiaRising's primary mission is helping young Gambians stay in school through grade 12, with a special focus on girls. But some of those we help are such good students that we have gradually been increasing the number we support after 12th grade. Now word has spread, times are hard, and this year we are deluged with appeals and applications from those we haven't supported before. Some are part-way through their studies but a death in the family or other setback threatens to derail their plans. Others excelled in senior secondary school and simply want to pursue a career that requires further education and do not have the means. What do you say to a young woman whose widowed mother sold her goats to pay the $350 minimum fee for her to start classes, but has found nowhere to turn for help to pay the balance and stay in college?

Small as we are, we have to set the bar high for such scholarship requests. For the University of The Gambia (UTG), we consider only the top 3% of students.  For Gambia College's Nursing and secondary Teaching program, the top 15%.  For both, we also look for a clear commitment to service. (And for Agriculture, a demonstrated love of farming.) The financial need must be clear: the family must contribute what they can, and we will provide 100% support only when there is no father in the house or other clear hardship.  

But if the need is there and a student has overcome their circumstances to be one of the top students in the country -- right up there with those from private schools with private tutors -- we want to help these "best of the best" to become the country's next generation of teachers, nurses, farmers, even a few lawyers and businesspeople. 

We now see that there is no "off-season" for our scholarship program. (Another reason we are so grateful for those monthly donations!!)  We can never close the application window. 

The beginning of the year always brings emergency appeals from college and university students who have been unable to pay their tuition for the new semester. And we are getting more of those than usual this year, but we are also getting lots of applications from new students. COVID delayed last year's national 12th grade exams (WASSCE), and many students are being admitted to college and university in the new semester instead of September. And the applications for support in the last few months have been frankly overwhelming.

We are doing what we can, probably more than is prudent. But please join me in congratulating a new group of remarkable women and men who have received GambiaRising college scholarships in 2021.  And also in thanking those who made their brighter futures possible!

They are going to play an important role in building a better country for all Gambians.

Future Teachers

Future Nurses

Future Farmers

Agriculture is still the way that most Gambians earn a living. But they do call it "subsistence farming" for a reason: techniques haven't changed much in the last one hundred years. So when a returned Peace Corps volunteer (and successful American farmer) offered to endow a scholarship program for promising young Gambians wanting to study Agriculture and then become farmers themselves, we were thrilled. We are now in the second year of the Sperry Scholars program, and schools have begun to send us candidates for a new crop of awards in September. But given the extra large mid-year class, we've already welcomed these three new Sperry Scholars to the ranks:

None of these students was in our budgets or plans for this year.  Every one of them deserves the chance we are giving them. Thanks to several donors who made their annual gifts earlier than usual this year, or sent an extra "10th anniversary" gift, plus the special gift for the Sperry scholarships, we had the cash to give them the support they need -- this year.  But that leaves the cupboard bare with the new school year fast approaching. 

Part of the foundation of our program planning is the monthly donations that more than 110 of our 254 active donors now use to support our students. To them, we THANK YOU; you gave us the courage to stretch even further this year. And to everyone who has already donated for this year, THANK YOU.

We are proud that most of our monthly letters report good news, without constant appeals for more funds. But from late June until we get students back into school, we do have to ask. So if you have not yet donated this year, we need you more than ever. If you are an RPCV, please reach out to your cohort and encourage them to join you in this quest. We know that many hundreds more young Gambians are going to drop out of school this fall if we can't offer them the small support they need -- a uniform or two, some books, perhaps a calculator and a book bag. The economy is not going to get better fast, and the tourist-based assistance programs have vanished with the tourists. It breaks my heart to hear how many places some of these young people have tried before they found us. So it does seem to be truly a case of "If not us, then who?"  $25 per month may not seem like much, but it will fund ten scholarships for primary school, or pay the tuition at Gambia College for a talented future teacher.  In short, it will change lives.

Please give young Gambians a chance to go to school.

I will help.  Here's my Donation!

Mike McConnell
Managing Trustee
GambiaRising Charitable Trust

1500 Park Ave Apt PH503
Emeryville, CA  94608-3578