by Lisa Samin
Yitzchak Shavit, Senior Vice President of the Jewish Federations of North America, was intricately involved in the birth of the Atidim program. He vividly remembers the excitement and expectations of the program's early days, and is proud of the tremendous organization Atidim has become.
"Ten years ago a talented Israeli boy from a good neighborhood in central Israel and one with similar talents from the periphery had disparate social and educational opportunities. One went to an elite combat unit in the army and on to college. The other didn't even dream about it," explains Shavit. "Atidim has changed all that."
With Atidim, motivated, bright students from the periphery are given social, academic and financial support to get ahead while still in high school, and this support stays with them throughout the army, college and into the workforce.
"What started out with 80 students from the Galilee and the Negev has blossomed into a national program for over 21,000 young people. Today, Atidim is a major social force in Israel," says Shavit with pride.
Shavit feels that donors are attracted to Atidim because they can see tangible results - where the young people in the program came from and where they are going. "Nothing is left to the imagination when a young boy tells his story of growing up in grim conditions in the under-resourced town of Sderot with no hope of going to college and now, with Atidim's holistic support, he holds an engineering degree and is working for an international high tech company," says Shavit.
"Atidim is like a family, raising these kids with opportunities to be good students, good soldiers and good citizens," says Shavit emphatically. "There is no better contribution to the State of Israel."