This academic year, Beloit College will continue its partnership with SHE-CAN, an organization that partners with U.S. colleges and universities to award scholarships to low-income, young women from post-conflict nations. SHE-CAN’s mission is to cultivate future leaders by equipping academically talented young women with the skills necessary to promote equality, peace, and economic prosperity in their home countries. Currently, scholar applications are being accepted from young women living in Cambodia and Rwanda. For the 2017-18 academic year, Beloit has two SHE-CAN scholars on campus: Chelsea Gaju from Rwanda, and Seakguech (Guech) Sok from Cambodia. Both students are currently enrolled as freshmen at Beloit, and when asked about life at Beloit so far, the scholars both emphatically replied, “I love it here.”
Before students can even apply to Beloit, however, they must first be accepted into SHE-CAN’s Scholarship Program, which is an intense, multi-step process. First, SHE-CAN applicants must successfully pass a one-on-one interview and group interview, as well as perform well on a speech assignment. Those who progress in the selection process are then enrolled in courses that prepare them to take the ACT (American College Testing) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exams. The candidates who score highly on these exams officially become members of the next SHE-CAN cohort—in Chelsea and Guech’s case, the Class of 2021.
SHE-CAN then pairs each scholar with a team of 5-6 American mentors who help them navigate the process of applying to U.S. colleges and applying for financial aid—an entirely separate process which can be very overwhelming to American students, let alone prospective international students. However, both Chelsea and Guech report that their SHE-CAN mentors were—and continue to be—invaluable resources to them. As Guech said, “I had no idea how to apply to U.S. colleges, but SHE-CAN helped me with the school selection and application process.” Chelsea echoed, “[Our mentors] really help us a lot. I don’t think we can make it without a strong team of people who are helping us...our mentors are like family away from home.”
In further reflecting on the entire process of becoming a SHE-CAN scholar, Chelsea added that the selection process was excellent preparation for Beloit’s rigorous class load because it pushed her to be more independent. As she says, “...the year that [the SHE-CAN scholars] stayed [in Rwanda] taking all those classes and learning more, it was kind of like learning more about ourselves. My classmates [from] high school, they're all sophomores now, and they started college right away. But [the SHE-CAN scholars], we had the chance to stay, and I think it helped us to become more mature and responsible...I got a chance to intern at a company...and I did that when I was just graduating from high school.”
Like SHE-CAN, Beloit aims to provide its students with as many hands-on learning opportunities as possible, and to push them to be remarkable and achieve their full potential. Participation in the SHE-CAN Coalition supports Beloit’s ongoing mission to educate future leaders and cultivate confident decision makers; people who aren’t afraid to confront and challenge systematic inequalities in their communities and imagine creative solutions to effect tangible, positive change.
Chelsea, for example, plans to study environmental policy-making at Beloit and plans to apply for a grant through the college’s Weissberg Program to conduct an internship next summer, back in her home country of Rwanda. As Chelsea explains, “I was thinking [that] through the connections I made back home in that year [when I interned at a local business] and through SHE-CAN, I could look up an internship in the national environmental protection agency.”
The opportunity to earn a liberal arts education—or to participate in Beloit’s Weissberg Program—wouldn’t have been possible for Chelsea and Guech without the college’s partnership with SHE-CAN, and both women are grateful to be studying at Beloit. In Chelsea’s words, “I think all of the scholars feel like—not even, I think—I'm sure that we are all thankful for [SHE-CAN], the opportunities that SHE-CAN has offered to us, and that it keeps offering to us. SHE-CAN has made a lot of things [possible] that we wouldn't have been able to [do] on our own.” Guech agrees that the journey of becoming a SHE-CAN scholar and coming to Beloit has been a “life-changing” experience.
Launched in fall 2015, the SHE-CAN Scholarship Coalition has brought together some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the U.S. in order to educate the next generation of female leadership. Beloit is one of eleven participating institutions in the U.S., and the college has been welcoming students from around the world since the 1850s. In 2011, Beloit received the Senator Paul Simon Award, academe’s highest honor for international education.