At age 7, Frida Eliav immigrated to Israel with no Hebrew, no self-confidence and little hope of attending high school or pursuing higher education.
Now 22, she is studying theatre at Tel Aviv University and hopes to pursue an acting career thanks to the College for All program.
“I’m not the same person I was before the program; my friends tell me i’m more confident.” Eliav told Jerusalem Post. She has also come back to perform in two of College for All’s graduation ceremonies since her own in 2007.
The organisation provides educational classes nurturing gifted children from disadvantaged backgrounds across Israel. The organisation holds classes on more than 25 campuses throughout Israel for students in grades two to 12.
College for All was set up in 1999 during a protest by students at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa over high tuition costs. The protesters, hoping to make changes in Israeli society, started the program aimed at supporting children from distressed neighbourhoods. The organisation started out with one centre in Tel Aviv where classes were held in a basement for elementary school students.
CEO and chairperson of College for All, Dr. Shula Recanati, believes the program provides participants with four domains that enrich their lives: academics, culture, community and self-value.
“Education is the best avenue for improving society. They are talented children that can appreciate the opportunities the program gives them,” Recanati told the Post.
Recanati became involved in the organisation in the early 2000s because she felt that Israel had major issues with social gaps.
“Looking at the Israeli society, I was alarmed at the increased social gaps,” Recanati said. “I was excited to see an organisation targeted at the underprivileged children. I was at the right age and right time to become involved. I’m involved on a daily basis. I feel that my involvement and contribution are highly needed and appreciated,” she said of her role with College for All.
Classes are conducted four times a week after school, as well as on holidays and vacations. Each session runs for four hours for 1,500 pupils.
Five hundred college students, some of whom are former program members, help mentor the children. To become an instructor, the students undertake a test to gauge their leadership skills and ability to connect with children. In return for mentoring, the students receive part of full scholarships.
The children are taught science, mathematics, literature and English, and can take extra-curricular activities including theatre, music, acting and film. The program focuses on equipping the participants with knowledge and skills to enter the real world.
Parental involvement is also important in the children’s development, said Recanati. To that end, College for All provides seminars and workshops to educate parents on what their children are being taught in the program.
Support for the students continues beyond graduation, and the organisation helps graduates apply for university and educates them on self-financing.
The fundraising event will begin at 8:30 p.m., at the Stoa conference hall in Kibbutz Ga’ash on January 5, 2012. Tickets for the event cost NIS 400 and all money raised goes towards funding the NGO organisation.