The Clinton Global Initiative awarded $4,000 to a GW student organization to support the group’s efforts to bring additional Sudanese students to American colleges and universities.
The Banaa student organization – also known as the Sudan Educational Empowerment Network – is striving to help students from the war-torn African nation attend GW and 35 other universities across the country. The program is partially funded by grants such as Clinton Global Initiative, a nonpartisan organization led by former President Bill Clinton that is dedicated to addressing major world issues.
This year, Sudanese student Makwei Mabioor Deng became the first person to matriculate into GW with the help of Banaa, but the student organization said it is only the beginning.
“In the next year, we are looking to have another five Banaa scholars at different universities across the country, and the year after that, seven, and essentially just continuing to scale up the program to really build up a force of Sudanese leaders to go back to the community,” said junior Michelle Flash, Banaa board member.
The Clinton Global Initiative honored Banaa co-founder Evan Faber for his “outstanding commitment to improving communities and lives across the world.”
“We’re doing everything from selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts to applying for large grants,” said Faber, a senior. “We were happy to receive the $4,000 from the Clinton Global Initiative.”
While Banaa’s work is charitable, the organization’s leaders stressed that their initiatives extend beyond donations.
“Banaa is really a strategic program building a new generation of leaders that would be endowed with the necessary skills to build a country from the ground up,” said Banaa co-director Zach Hindin, a junior. “Basically, what we’re trying to do is empower a new generation with all the tools and knowledge they would need.”
Banaa’s focus is to help students from Sudan obtain the tools necessary to affect positive change in their home country. The national student organization was founded at GW in summer 2006 and now has 35 other chapters at universities across the country.
“The long-term (goal) is to really endow the network such that really a number of students can be coming to American universities every year and at the same time leaving for Sudan every year,” Hindin said.
Flash added that, “If you want to dream big, the long-term goal is peace in Sudan, but more realistically is starting to get some positive change on the ground, because that’s the real goal of Banaa.”
Faber said four other universities have committed to providing scholarships for students. Scholarships cover the cost of tuition, room and board, but Banaa has to fundraise to cover any other expenses that might arise.
“We’re getting the school to defer the in-scale cost of tuition, room and board, but there’s a lot of other expenses that come in the way, anywhere from cell phone minutes to food and clothes, anything that comes up outside of books and GW food,” Hindin said.
The relatively new scholarship – which accepted applications for the first time last year – has already garnered a lot of attention.
“Word really trickled by word of mouth,” Hindin said. “We got in total somewhere close to 200 applicants.”
The scholarship selection process is similar to the admissions process for American students, but prospective Banaa scholars submit their applications to Banaa before going to the University Admissions Office.
As a group, the students in Banaa read through the applications and two essay questions related to Banaa. Their recommendations are then read again by the group’s board, which makes a final recommendation to the University.