College Students from Rwanda Win CIEE UNHCR Student Challenge at the 12th Annual CIEE Global Internship Conference in London

PR Newswire
Wednesday, July 10, 2024 at 2:32pm UTC

College Students from Rwanda Win CIEE UNHCR Student Challenge at the 12th Annual CIEE Global Internship Conference in London

PR Newswire

Awarded $50,000 to launch plan to help refugee students in Rwanda access higher education

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine, July 10, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Three teams of university students traveled to the 12th Annual CIEE Global Internship Conference (GIC) in London, England for the finals of the second annual CIEE UNHCR Student Challenge where they presented solution ideas to support increasing access to higher education and livelihood for forcibly displaced youth around the world.

"I learned so much about how we, as university students, can make a real difference," said Joselyto Charite Baho.

The winning team was the Eagles, comprised of Amina Mkova (Team Captain); Obed Korusenge Nsanzimfura; Joselyto Charite Baho, all from Kepler College, Rwanda; and Nimco Ibrahim from African Leadership University, Rwanda.

Eligible members of the winning team will each be awarded a CIEE summer global internship, and CIEE has pledged $50,000 to support the team's solution idea, consisting of a comprehensive and sustainable mentoring program that supports high school students who are forcibly displaced and need help bridging the knowledge gap to gain university admission, refugee students enrolled in higher education programs who need help navigating university, and soon-to-be-graduates who need help preparing for careers and networking.

This year, 130 teams comprised of 470 students from 38 countries representing 80 colleges and universities entered the CIEE UNHCR Student Challenge, which was cosponsored by CIEE and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, with challenge partners District C and Microsoft providing additional support.

In the semifinals, 36 teams representing 47 universities, and 21 countries were selected to further develop and present their ideas virtually to judges from across the globe representing organizations advocating for refugees, including the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Kepler, the President's Alliance for Immigration and Higher Education, Talent Beyond Boundaries, and Jesuit Worldwide Learning. 

The judges selected the top three teams to advance to the finals based on the potential of their solution ideas to address this critical challenge facing refugees. The finalists were awarded a trip to London to compete for the grand prize at the 2024 CIEE UNHCR Student Challenge Finals.

In the finals, the top three teams presented their proposals during the closing plenary before a panel of judges: James P. Pellow, President and CEO of CIEE; refugee experts Ruth Nyabuto, Academic Manager, University of Oxford Refugee Studies Center, Refugee-Led Research Hub (RLRH); and Tahlia Dwyer, Legal Officer, UNHCR.

In addition to the Eagles, judges heard impressive presentations from the two runners-up teams, including a team from Wellesley College, named Wellesley in the World, and represented by Merelin Baldonado (Team Captain), Ilinca Drondoe, and Suzanna Schofield; and a team from four different colleges, named Three Paths, and represented by Mia Williams (Team Captain) University of Pennsylvania; Zamzam Fadhil, San Diego Mesa College; Ahmednoor Hassan, Bates College; and Kay Ellen Bell, Bard College. Team Three Paths met as high school students in 2022 while on a CIEE language and culture program in Rabat, Morocco. They decided to compete as a team from their current colleges located in three regions of the U.S.

"All the student proposals for solutions to help refugees were impressive," said judge James P. Pellow. "The design of the Eagles' solution was both practical and impactful and the judges felt it had a strong possibility of being successful. In fact, all three judges pledged to help Team Eagles in some way, with CIEE pledging $50,000 to support the pilot program, refugee expert Ruth Nyabuto signing on to mentor these ambitious students, and Tahlia Dwyer of UNHCR pledging to explore ways that UNHCR could promote the project."

"I was honored to listen to the project ideas from the three groups," said judge Ruth Nyabuto. "What stood out for me was the amount of thoughtfulness, hard work and detailed understanding of the displacement contexts they all intended to respond to. While all their proposals were stellar, Eagles's proposal which sought to address access to higher education had a more convincing implementation plan. Through RLRH which has been running a graduate application mentorship 'Graduate Horizons'  we hope to offer mentorship to the group as they set up their project."

Eagles Team Captain, Amina Mkova (who due to travel issues participated in the finals virtually) explained that her favorite part of the challenge was the opportunity to help forcibly displaced and refugee students in Rwanda access and seamlessly transition into higher education. "I believe that empowering them will enable them to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams," she said.

"Participating in the Student Challenge was an incredible and eye-opening experience," said Eagles team member Joselyto Charite Baho. "As a first-time international traveler, visiting London for the finals was exciting in itself, but the entire competition process exceeded my expectations. Through the three phases - from the initial proposal to the final presentation in London - I learned so much about how we, as university students, can make a real difference."

"UNHCR congratulates all the CIEE student teams and particularly the winning team from Rwandathe Eagles! Their ingenuity and dedication demonstrate the transformative impact that higher education can have on refugee students, empowering them to achieve their aspirations and contribute insight and expertise to global dialogues," said Manal Stulgaitis, Division of Resilience and Solutions, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. "The innovative ideas and solutions presented by all teams confirms the value of including young people in addressing the global challenge of increasing access to higher education and livelihood for forcibly displaced youth."

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights, and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people. Worldwide, over 120 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence, and persecution. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, believes that young people have a central role to play in finding ways to help them thrive, not just survive. 

About CIEE
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SOURCE Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)