By Ardene Mandziy, Vice Principal of Middle School, and Adam Taylor, Head of Grade in Middle School, Dover Campus
This week it has been our great pleasure to travel to Cambodia with UWCSEA East to award the annual five-year UWCSEA scholarships to two very impressive, well-deserving students who will begin in Grade 8 next school year at our East and Dover campuses. These scholarships, which include education and boarding, are an opportunity of a lifetime for these scholars, a truly life-changing event. During the course of the selection process we met many incredible young girls and boys who absolutely value their education, work hard at school despite huge obstacles and restrictions, contribute endlessly to help out their families and consistently demonstrate true grit and resilience. The students were incredibly supportive of each other and the positive attitude, determination to succeed and kindness shown by each student was both humbling and awe-inspiring.
The first Grade 8 scholar arrived at UWCSEA in 2008 and Mr Chris Davies in our Middle School has played a key role in organising the scholar selections for Grade 8 for the past 3 years. The effort he puts in with the team at UWCSEA to make this process happen is incredible and truly comes from the heart. Mr Davies was supported by Karen and Andrea from our East campus, Yenda and Pinky, two former UWCSEA scholars and Sewen who is a currently a scholar at the East campus. The process is rigorous and begins with applications, personal statements, testing in English, Khmer and Math, group activities and numerous face-to-face interviews. For many of the students this is the first time they had ever travelled out of their Province, ridden in an elevator, seen a swimming pool or had a conversation with a foreigner. Some students travelled for hours across the country by themselves having never left their village or comfort of their families before. They are such strong and brave individuals. If we could award scholarships to all 24 of the students we met and interviewed this week, we would have. The journey these children have been on, the courage they showed and the dedication they demonstrated toward their learning, made every student worthy of these scholarships. Indeed we feel they will offer much to our community and the students entering into Grade 8 this coming August are fortunate to be able to share their journey with our scholars.
This year the scholarships were awarded to Sok Mean who is 14 years old, from the Pursat province. She is a tiny, fiery young lady who lectured us on the importance of keeping girls in school. No girl in her village has yet made it to Grade 12 and most are married by the age of 15. She is determined to return to her village to teach English and keep girls in school. Her parents and older brothers are all farmers. Sok Mean will attend the East Campus.
Hong Meng is a 14-year-old boy who will attend Dover Campus. He dreams of being an Architect and returning to Cambodia to improve the infrastructure of his county. He is from the Koh Kong province and we have not had a scholar from this province to date. He is a determined young man who loves Mathematics, is very proud of his academic accomplishments and adores his 10-month-old baby sister. He is already well and truly under our wing and we look forward to him starting with us next year and truly flourishing in our UWCSEA community.
As we sit in our JetStar seats flying back to Singapore, we are full of many emotions; pride, happiness, sadness, awe and mental fatigue. We are so proud to be part of a school community which can offer these opportunities to such deserving and awe-inspiring children, who are so determined to succeed despite such little opportunity. We are so very excited for you all to meet Hong Meng and to see him bounding down the corridors of Grade 8 next year.
Our scholars add to the diversity of UWC by sharing their traditions, their community and their stories with fellow students. Living and learning with these students bring to life global issues, an appreciation of differences and a deeper understanding of specific cultures and nations. Learn more about UWC scholarships here.