Hailing from Kigali, Rwanda, Flavia Umulisa ’17 knows what it’s like to dream about attending college in the United States and feel intimidated by having to take standardized tests, often a requirement for admission.
That’s why she was so eager to work with Lafayette Initiative for Malagasy Education (LIME). The mentor program connects Lafayette students with students at the Lycee Andohalo public high school in the Malagasy capital of Antananarivo to help them apply to colleges and universities in the U.S.
“I have gone through the same college application process that the Madagascar students go through,” says Umulisa, an international affairs major. “It’s because I was also mentored and given so much help that I ultimately achieved the dream of pursuing college in the U.S. LIME is the perfect opportunity for me to give back through taking a role in the realization of someone else’s dreams.”
Since the program’s inception in 2010, three Malagasy students have become Leopards, though coming to Lafayette is not required; students can apply to the U.S. college or university of their choice.
LIME adviser David Stifel, associate professor of economics and chair of international affairs, and Susan Averett, Dana Professor of Economics, accompanied this year’s team to Madagascar over the January break for three weeks of intensive lessons with about 50 Malagasy students. Lafayette students are responsible for all aspects of the program, including preparing lesson plans, learning about Malagasy culture, raising funds, and maintaining the mentor relationship after returning to College Hill.
They helped students create College Board accounts and navigate the website, gave lessons on SAT and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) subjects, and gave an “American lesson” each day to help Malagasy students learn about life in the U.S. They also helped three students who had already taken their SAT and TOEFL exams complete the Common Application.
“They are so driven and determined to be good students,” says biochemistry major Stavros Kariofillis ’17 (Easton, Pa.). “Some get up at 4 a.m. to complete their chores, do their schoolwork, and then walk to school or participate in an extracurricular program. It’s their dream to study in the U.S. and get a good education. The classroom was where we were able to see transformation.”
LIME is not just a learning experience for Malagasy students, says computer science major Ivan Evtimov ’17 (Sevlievo, Bulgaria).
“Being in an environment as different as Madagascar and having to find common ground with peers who are very different from us has helped me in my group project work,” he says. “My Software Engineering course is as much about learning to work in a team as it is about computer science. After LIME, it feels like I am one step ahead.”
My first semester of freshman year is already done. During these six months at Lafayette, I learned so much from the Lafayette community. I learned to see the world from a very new horizon and came out of my comfort zone.
My passion is observing what’s going on around me and trying to make sense of different aspects of human behavior, activities, and interaction. For me, understanding about society and how it works, are ways to understand the human race. I want to major in anthropology and sociology and international studies, because those subjects work hand-in-hand to make a better and more secured world. LIME allowed me to dream, helped me in fulfilling that dream and now I have a new dream because of my experience at Lafayette.
– Clara Randimbiarimanana ’17