January 22, 2007 / 3 Shevat 5767
Assaf Dahan, 23, was born and raised in Kiryat Shmona. Despite the difficulties of living in a city that has been the victim of endless terrorist attacks and Katyusha rockets, Assaf feels that it is an excellent place to raise a family.
"Personally, I am not scared to live in Kiryat Shmona," says Assaf with a charming smile. "It is a small, close-knit community in which everyone knows and cares for each other. However, there is not enough investment in the city – in infrastructure, business, and most importantly, in higher education."
Through the Atidim in Industry program, Assaf is getting a chance to not only receive a higher education, but also intern at a major high tech company.
The Atidim in Industry Program encourages and helps talented young people ages 21-30 from the periphery to earn an esteemed academic degree after finishing their military service. The program’s goal combines several interests: allowing students to earn a degree in a subject that is in demand in industry, while creating the opportunity for the student to contribute to the industry’s major forces.
Assaf graduated from high school with honors, notably in physics and computers. He was an officer in an elite combat unit, and upon his discharge in 2004 he returned to work in Kiryat Shmona to save money for college. His father, an independent electrician, and mother, a special education teacher, always encouraged their children to study hard and go to college. His sister is studying to be a doctor at Ben Gurion University in Be'ersheva.
"When I was accepted to Bar-Ilan University I was thrilled," says Assaf. "I had enough money for my first year of studies, but wasn't sure how I would finance the next few years. My friend told me about Atidim."
Assaf was accepted to the Atidim in Industry Program; he receives a full tuition scholarship, living stipend, a laptop computer, tutoring in his studies, work experience and integration in a leading Israeli company. "It was more than the money that attracted me to Atidim," says Assaf enthusiastically. "It was the fact that I am to be adopted by a high tech company, have the opportunity to intern for them and gain valuable experience, and possibly work for them upon graduation."
A large number of leading Israeli companies have joined Atidim, adopting talented students, supporting their studies, training them and then hiring them after they graduate. Benny Landa, founder and former CEO of Indigo, one of Atidim's original program sponsors, says that Atidim is a "win-win-win" situation for the student, the company and the State of Israel.
"Growing up in the periphery I felt that I had less of a chance to 'make it' in places like Tel Aviv and in leading high tech companies. Atidim is giving me a real chance to move forward, and closing social gaps between those of us who did not have the same opportunities as people our own age in the center of the country."
Atidim is a groundbreaking program established in 2000 to proactively identify the top 30 percent of youth from the periphery and low-income communities and offer them equal educational opportunity. It began with the Atidim Academics Reserve program and has since expanded to include the Pre-Atidim program for talented high school students, Atidim in Industry and Cadets for Public Service. The program has had unprecedented success, ensuring that talented young people from lower socio-economic areas are able to receive a higher education, finance their studies and go back to serve their communities as leaders to strengthen and develop the potential in these areas. Atidim is a joint partnership of Friends of Atidim Association, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Israeli government ministries, the private sector and non-profit organizations.