English for All: Access Microscholarship Program Brings Egyptian Youth Empowering, Life-Changing Experiences

AUC’s School of Continuing Education (SCE) has welcomed the 13th cohort of its English Access Microscholarship Program, which offers English-language learning and much more to promising Egyptian youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The two-year program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State, involves a variety of experiential tracks that also develop cross-cultural understanding in addition to soft skills. The aim is to empower participants to pursue better educational and career opportunities and compete for future exchanges and study in the United States. 

Access students dream big, and they work very hard to make those dreams a reality,” said SCE Dean James Ketterer during the launch ceremony for the 13th cohort. “We are so proud of the distinguished students gathered here today from across Egypt striving to better themselves and the world.”

This year’s cohort includes 168 underprivileged students whose ages range from 13 to 18 years. As the new group was welcomed in, past alumni attending the ceremony reflected on the impact the program has had on their professional and personal lives.

“My Access journey was the loveliest and most unforgettable experience of my life,” said Yasser Tamer, a visually impaired Access alumnus who is now a student at AUC.

Tamer graduated from a segregated governmental school for the visually impaired. The Access program allowed him to discover himself within a community of inclusivity and feel appreciated, he recalled. 

In addition to learning English, he was able to develop his ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds as well as his leadership and competence in fostering community development.

“The program allows you to gain other skills that will benefit you in the future,” he said. “I am so thankful for the teachers, parents and other students who helped me throughout my journey.”

Addressing the incoming class, Tamer said: "I advise you to never lose hope and embrace all the opportunities possible. You are the leaders of your smaller communities — always try to make an impact and promote inclusivity and cultural diversity whenever possible."

The program’s classes are delivered under SCE, in partnership with The Regional English Language Office of the U.S. Embassy in Egypt. Experiential learning activities for past cohorts have included visiting the Cairo Jazz Festival, kayaking on the Nile in Aswan, taking classes at Fagnoon Art School and attending a camp at AUC New Cairo.

During his speech at the ceremony, AUC President Ahmad Dallal encouraged the cohort to seize all learning opportunities. 

Learning has a broader meaning than education,” Dallal said. “It enables you to develop your skills and life experiences to become more competent, independent and continuously looking for opportunities of development and progress wherever they are.”

Another program alum, Marwa Atef, was nervous when she first applied to the program. She recalled “shaking like a leaf” during her first interview. After her acceptance, she traveled from her hometown each week to attend classes nearby. Soon after graduating, Atef worked as a translator and public relations officer for local NGOs and an assistant teacher for the Access program while pursuing a career in education. She is now a teacher.

"Access was a life-changing experience for me -- a turning point not only in my English language skills but in my cultural knowledge, community involvement, interpersonal development and much more,” she said. “It taught me to think out of the box and dream big, so seize this opportunity and make sure to make the best out of this journey and beyond. ... Make it count and dream big!"