Each year, the foundation teams up with partner organizations in South Africa to hold an essay contest, in which students are asked to identify why they wish to be IYL Foundation Scholars. Selected students receive a $1,000 scholarship and participate in the “Expose, Enlighten and Educate Experience,” a three-week trip to major U.S. cities, where they meet with professionals in business, technology, government, education, science and media. The program’s goal is to give the students access to insights and ideas that they can take back and possibly implement in South Africa.
Gabriella Du Plessis, 19, said the opportunity has opened many doors for her.
“This trip is teaching us to be open, as opposed to closed- or narrow-minded, to what we can achieve, both in South Africa as well as internationally,” Du Plessis said between sips of coffee.
Boston marked the halfway point in the students’ trip, and Du Plessis ranked the Hub as the best of the cities they had visited due to the city’s unique speed of life.
“To me, the balance between the fast-paced life and business life is good — not too fast, but not too rigid or slow,” she said.
Asked about personal goals for the future, 19-year-old Jermaine Swartz said he hoped to put every aspect of the journey to use.
“One thing we’ve learned is that learning itself is a lifelong thing,” said Swartz, whose meeting with Old Mutual sparked aspirations of starting an investment firm. “This experience is providing us with lessons we have yet to tap into, but indeed, we will.”
Xolile Ndhlovu, 20, believes opportunities like the “Expose, Enlighten & Educate Experience” should be available to all students. She said she would like to engage in social work to extend such chances to more South Africans as well as children in Swaziland, Rwanda, America and Australia.
The students said they have grown quite close during their travels, speaking in a jovial yet serious fashion about the possibility of working together to create a business venture that addresses each of their individual needs and ambitions.
Of the trip’s many lessons, they cited the importance of hard work as a theme that has reoccurred in each of the cities they’ve visited.
“You must go through something to get to something else,” said Swartz. “Eventually, hard work does indeed pay off.”
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