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Olympia’s Imagine Scholar Story

I am from Nkomazi, South Africa. 30 minutes away from Kruger National Park, and 6 hours away from Hoedspruit. I am part of an afterschool group called Imagine Scholar. It was through Imagine Scholars that I heard about Raleigh. They told me there was an opportunity that would take me outside of my comfort zone, I thought, “of course I’m going to take it.”

What is Imagine Scholar?

Imagine Scholar is a program where you attend for 25 hours a week after school. You learn a lot of critical thinking skills, ways in which to adapt into the world, and along with that comes opportunities such as Raleigh, University overseas, access to boarding schools in the region, and more. I went to a boarding school in Eswatini for two years, and now I have an offer to go to University in the United States.

It is a program that cultivates young minds to make an impact in the world. The program goes around lots of schools in my region and picks the top 10 students. Then it is an 8 month process to find out whether you’re eligible and will fit in. You have to be dedicated. It’s not only about grades, the program focuses on ideas of kindness, teamwork, leadership… you develop all of these skills, it’s like a second home to me.

One of the Imagine Scholar Alumni set up a clinic in my community where anyone can go – because in South Africa it’s either private hospitals or public services which are too expensive. They wanted to make something that is affordable. That is an example of someone who wants to make a real impact in the world coming out of Imagine Scholar.

When Imagine Scholar gives you opportunities like Raleigh, you can’t get but want to give back to them. After Raleigh I want to do an internship with them, then I am going to go to college in the US. My goal is to go to University in Washington.

I always challenge myself to go outside of my comfort zone because I want to see the world in a clearer way. Raleigh is helping me go outside of my comfort zone. At my home we focus on the basics: being alive, having food, having clothes. But I see more than that and I see beyond that.

My First Days with Raleigh International

When I first arrived I was a bit emotionally unstable, it was a rocky start – I was trying to get to know everyone but it was a slow process for me to warm up to people. But everyone here is so kind. The staff and the VMS have incredible energy and kindness and you feel like you can talk to anyone. That played a huge role in me warming up to space. I haven’t been around anyone where it feels unnatural. I love the people – and I want to make the space comfortable for others because they have made it comfortable for me.

My first impressions were sort of “I’m going to survive” but now I am actually happy. I went from survival mode to driving mode! At the beginning I was missing my friends, my home, meaning I wasn’t fully present in the space, but now I am fully here. I love everything about it. I’m currently on the environment project and it is so nice. Katie, our guide, loves the environment project and so that is contagious. We are taking on her excitement and love and respect for the project. I feel like I’m growing already.

Final Thoughts

I’ve developed a love for impalas – they’re so pretty, and fair. Learning to coexist with animals and insects in the bush it’s amazing. Normally I would scream and run away! But here I see grasshoppers in my tent and I don’t mind. I feel like I’m conquering my fears.

My favourite activity on the environment program so far was Datura, which is the removal of an invasive species. Sometimes you don’t have to enjoy the process but when you see the impact or know the impact you’re making it makes it worth it. Sometimes I don’t have the physical strength to do things like cut down a whole tree but we’re working as a team, and everything is worth it. We all have our strengths and skills.

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