I am pleased to be here today at the English Access Micro-scholarship Program graduation ceremony with Stepping Stones International, a valued and long-time partner of the United States Embassy.
Stepping Stones is a unique organization. You use innovative, holistic methods to reach youth most in need. You look for solutions to difficult problems. This is why we were so pleased to partner with Stepping Stones International to launch the First English Access Micro-scholarship Program in Botswana. The U.S. Embassy provided approximately $50,000 dollars to support 25 twelve to thirteen year-old students in Mochudi. This program built on Stepping Stones’ outstanding after-school programs and leadership initiatives.
Botswana’s youth are now part of over 100,000 students in more than 80 countries that have participated in the Access program over the past 10 years, from Morocco, where the program originally started, to South Africa, which has Access programs throughout the country. Access fortifies students’ leadership and English language skills through participation in an intensive two-year after-school program. But Access is much more than an English teaching program: participants also learn about U.S. culture, build professional and life skills, and participate in community service activities.
The U.S. Embassy is proud of our work with Stepping Stones. We regularly bring international speakers and artists to inspire young learners. We even have Embassy staff – including U.S. Marines! – that mentor kids through the Stepping Stones’ sports program on Saturdays, and Peace Corps Volunteers who work at the center.
Over the past two years, students also perfected their internet and social media skills. They learned about U.S. culture through music, dance, theatre and fashion, about studying in America, and they heard expert career advice and visited local universities.
On behalf of the U.S. government, I want to officially congratulate you for completing the Access program. I encourage you to take all you have gained from this opportunity and make the best of it. Remember, the rest of your life, will be the best of your life!
To start you on your journey, I will present each participant with a certificate of award. This certificate represents our belief in you. But it also represents your commitment to the program and the hard work you put in. Thank you, and good luck!