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Al Qasimi Foundation Now Responsible for the Sheikh Saqr Student Development & Overseas Scholarship Programs

Al Qasimi Foundation
March 31, 2013

At the beginning of 2013 the Al Qasimi Foundation became responsible for managing an enrichment program for talented secondary school students and a scholarship program that supports university studies overseas. Previously administered through the Sheikh Saqr Program for Government Excellence (SSPGE), the programs compliment the Foundation’s existing grant opportunities and relationships with universities—both locally and abroad—as well as its teacher professional development efforts.

“It is a real privilege for the Al Qasimi Foundation to be part of the Sheikh Saqr Overseas Scholarship and Student Development Programs,” says Dr. Natasha Ridge, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “These programs are key to the development of talented young Emiratis in Ras Al Khaimah and to helping them reach their potential and become future leaders in society.”

Initially launched in 2006, the Sheikh Saqr Overseas Scholarship Program provides funding for academically talented Emirati students and public sector professionals to pursue their bachelors, masters, or doctorate degrees at leading universities around the world. Amna Al Hayyas, Head of Administration and Finance at SSPGE, helped develop the program and remains responsible for managing local scholarships that support studies at universities in the United Arab Emirates. “The goal of establishing the scholarships aligns with the keenness of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi and his interests in education,” she says.

To date, 321 students have been awarded local scholarships and an additional 84 students have received scholarships to study overseas. Collectively, there are already 68 graduates from the two scholarship programs. To build on this success and boost the number of students prepared for overseas studies, the SSPGE began the Sheikh Saqr Student Development Program last year.

“The program is designed for high achieving students in Grades 10, 11, and 12 who are enrolled in Ras Al Khaimah schools,” says Hajar Al Ali, the Foundation’s new Scholarship Coordinator. Ms. Ali led the creation of the student enrichment program at SSPGE and has transitioned to the Foundation to continue its development. “We try to enhance their abilities in different areas through various workshops and classes.”

While monthly workshops will continue to address a variety of topics, a key priority moving forward will be strengthening students’ English skills since this is the language of instruction at many local and overseas universities. Jenny Zimmerman, the Al Qasimi Foundation’s English Instructor, has been running supplemental English classes twice a week since February as an initial step toward this goal.

“The regular English program with the gifted secondary students is going well,” Ms. Zimmerman says. “We’ve all gotten use to each other and have progressed to a point where students are both engaged and challenged by the materials being used. The students have all been able to move up one level, and we’re now beginning to prepare for the IELTS and TOEFL exams.”

Another key priority as the program continues to mature will be assisting students in identifying and applying to overseas universities based on their academic interests and future career goals.

“The university admission process is complicated, and applying to study overseas can be confusing,” says Caitrin Mullan, Program Manager for Outreach at the Foundation. “For many students and their families, the thought of trying to navigate this on their own means that many will not seriously consider the opportunity even if they have access to full scholarships. By providing additional support during the application process, we hope to encourage more of the best students to continue their educations abroad.”

The Al Qasimi Foundation plans to continue working closely with the SSPGE as it prepares to welcome a new cohort of Grade 10 students in September and expand the Student Development Program. While there are about 100 students involved in the English classes and workshops at present, the goal is to gradually grow participation to around 300 students annually over the next several years.

“While not all of the students in the program will decide to study overseas,” says Dr. Ridge, “we look forward to seeing many more young Emiratis gain admission to top academic programs in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia.”