Over the years at Bridge2Rwanda, our team have learned a great deal about how to support students who are preparing for world-class universities, both within Africa and in the U.S., Canada and beyond. The first thing we knew, but that we have developed more with each class, is that students’ character, integrity, and personal and professional soft skills always matter at least as much as the students’ academic development.
In fact, academic progress alone is never enough for any student to succeed long-term. When it comes to helping a student get to and through university and beyond, personal character matters even more than a student’s academic results.
The good news is, with the right support and mindsets, both academic and personal character can be developed! And while this requires tremendous commitment and practice from the student and the team, if the students adopt the right mindset, they can focus on a few key things at a time that are most important both academically and personally for their holistic growth.
Best of all, when students are supported to practice, learn, work and think through these simple things on a regular basis, eventually they will make far more progress — and even grow into better people and leaders — than they would ever have expected.
A big part of the “B2R Scholars Mindset” (as I sometimes call it) comes from the “growth mindset,” which is the most powerful educational concept we have found in a long time. Here are a few key links to introduce you to the “growth mindset:”
1) “Sweating Your Way to Success,” by Peter Ortzag
2) “The Myth of I’m Bad at Math”
3) Article on the Growth Mindset:
4) Video 1:
5) Video 2:
6) “What if the secret to success is failure?” by Paul Tough
At B2R, we add an ongoing emphasis on soft skills — being kind to the people around us, treating people the way we would like to be treated, writing thank you notes and saying thank you, writing professional e-mails, and more. This personal character mindset will look different from one college access program to another, but it is very important that when working with HALI students, we take the time to define our team’s culture and to help our students to define theirs.
B2R’s mission is to connect the U.S. and Rwanda and in the process to transform lives on both sides. The B2R Scholars program works to achieve this lofty goal by preparing and equipping the best students in Rwanda, Burundi, DR-Congo and South Sudan to study and return as servant leaders to their countries. They will help their countries and peoples develop and achieve the most that they possibly can, long-term. If we only focused on academics, this would be to serve our students with only half of what they need, or even less. By helping our students learn how to learn, and more importantly practice and continue to learn how to love, through their actions and their service to the people around them, the B2R Scholars mindset aims to educate transformative servant leaders who will make the greatest difference in their countries, throughout their lives.
The good news is, with time and practice, what we need to do to help our students grow and develop mindsets that are vital to their happiness and success seem to become less complicated every year. What matters most is what we can demonstrate to students through our own actions that we retain our commitment to excellence in our own character and integrity as non-negotiable. The students will then also follow the team’s lead to practice, improve and excel in the key areas (academically, personally and professionally) — which turn out not to be as complicated as we might think. What matters most is that we commit to the end result we have in mind, put in the effort that this requires and help our students to do the same.
Written by Richard Siegler, Co-founder and Dean, Bridge2Rwanda Scholars