|"Atidim has taken me under its wing and given me the power to fly," says Meital. |
Israeli-born Meital Shahar (24) was the first woman to be accepted into the second class of the Atidim in Industry Program. With the equal educational opportunity provided by Atidim, she is now in her second year at the Academic Engineering College in Jerusalem, studying advanced material engineering. For the first time in a long time, her future looks extremely promising.
The Atidim in Industry program encourages young adults, ages 22-28, from underprivileged backgrounds to pursue a Bachelor's degree, mainly in Engineering and the Sciences. In order to ensure their success, the participants receive much more than a full scholarship. The participating companies "adopt" a student, providing a personal tutor and "hands on" experience during their studies. After finishing their degree, the students contribute to the country's market economy in commerce or industry.
Meital comes from a difficult socio-economic background and prefers not to talk about her family. What she does want to talk about is Atidim in Industry and what the program has done for her.
"I was approached by Atidim after the college had recommended me," says Meital. "I couldn't believe my good fortune when I was accepted. The program has granted me a full academic scholarship, pays for my living expenses, and has given me a laptop computer and tutoring in my studies."
Meital has been adopted by AVX, a prestigious, Jerusalem-based hi-tech corporation that is part of the Atidim program's cooperation with leading Israeli companies. AVX finances Meital's living expenses, and she works at the company a few hours a week, and 100 hours during the summer, learning and gaining valuable experience. In addition, she receives a personal mentor at the company who is her liaison and assists her throughout her studies. Upon completing her studies, Meital will work at AVX full time for three years.
"Sometimes you just need someone to recognize your potential and to give you the opportunity to prove how far you can go. Atidim has taken me under its wing and given me the power to fly," says Meital.
Atidim is a joint partnership of the Friends of Atidim Association, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Israeli government ministries, the private sector and non-profit organizations. The groundbreaking program, established in 2000, proactively identifies the top 30 percent of youth from low-income communities and offers them equal access to higher education. The program has had unprecedented success, ensuring that talented young people from lower socio-economic areas are able to finance their studies, continue through a high level of military service, and go back to serve their communities as leaders to strengthen and develop the potential in these areas.
Atidim is comprised of three programs: Pre-Atidim for outstanding high school students, Atidim in Industry and Atidim Cadets for Public Service. Benny Landa, founder and former CEO of Indigo, succinctly sums up the Atidim in Industry Program: "The reason why Atidim is such a significant and important program is simple. Atidim develops what would have been wasted potential of some of the most talented youth in the country, and changes their lives. These children, were it not for their background, would have been considered the most promising people in Israel. Atidim allows them to fulfill their potential and contribute fully to Israeli society."
Atidim in Industry is providing Israel's industry with a pool of young, talented professionals from the outlying areas with the will to succeed. By bolstering traditionally disenfranchised young people, including new immigrants, Atidim truly transforms the landscape of Israel society.
"The only place for me to go is up," says Meital. "I have been given the tools to realize my dreams, and I want to take advantage of every minute."