Monday, December 14, 2009

Application Process

The last month has been trying to say the least. We began our search for new scholarship recipients. It is a three-step process.

1) Review application: The initial step is an application that local youth fill so we can understand their history, economic support, family situation, aspirations and more.

2) Student interview: Students come to the office and interview with two OYE staff members. Here we learn more about the students and expand on the information they gave us in the interview.

3) House visit: During these visits we meet the family, see the neighborhood and really become close to the situation. It is in the home visits that one really sees the needs of these families.

This year we reviewed over 150 applications to fill 15 spaces. The beautiful but challenging thing about the process is that no one becomes a number; there are histories, families and dreams involved. We spent three days reviewing, discussing and scoring applications. That was the easy part.

The interviewing process is difficult because you look them in the eyes and hear their stories. This year we heard stories from 57 local youth. Some are of a "normal" childhood in a poor family and community but others open up to reveal abusive home situation, gang violence resulting in family deaths, forced prostitution and more...

Then these same students tell you about their dreams. Dreams to change the community support their families and go to school. It was enough to induce tears from three different staff members (not in front of the applicant of course).

After the interview process we took to the streets. We conducted 29 home visits. This process is even harder than the last. Many homes are up in the hills nestled into the poorest communities. In the most humble of homes Mothers would see us coming and send their kids to run buy a Pepsi. A small cup as an act of hospitality.

The situations were heartbreaking. Houses with walls built from discarded scraps of wood, old tarps and tires. Dirt floors. No divisions. One woman lived on a terrible plot of land that gets flooded every year, leaving them to camp on the side of the highway for two months. She worked 4 years to save up $423.00 to buy it.

These are our students, these are the youth who come to OYE anxious to learn and grow. 80% of there parents never went/finished high school and in OYE they will be encouraged to not only graduate high school but also pursue higher education. These are the 75 youth how will break the poverty cycle and encourage their peers to do the same.

As trying has this past month has been the rewards are immense and we are excited to see what these students will do in 2010!

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