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16 Sep 2010 00:00 Age: 7 yrs
Category: News Update, Our Stories

Second chance students graduate with flying colours

A group of 60 underachieving youths have embarked on careers as technicians after an intensive two-year study programme supported by World ORT in partnership with the UJA-Federation of New York.   The young men, many of them olim from Ethiopia and the Former Soviet Union, graduated from the electronic engineering diploma course at Emek HaYarden College to take up positions in the Israeli Air Force – some of them in elite research units.   Theirs is a remarkable achievement because – although they were identified as having the potential to succeed – they had not gained the maths and physics qualifications normally required for enrolment.


These young men, pictured at the start of their studies, have a brighter future to look forward to.

“They were unable to realise their potential at school,” said Rony Kalinsky, Executive Director of World ORT’s programmatic arm in Israel, Kadima Mada. “But this programme has given them a second chance and they have passed it with flying colours. With this under their belt they can look forward to a significant and interesting service in the IDF and a reliable and rewarding civilian career; without it many of them would have been lucky to find work stacking supermarket shelves.”

The IDF, the Ministries of Education and Religious Affairs, and Youth Aliyah Organisation contributed to meeting the costs of the Adir BeMarom programme and World ORT also provided a number of scholarships to Ethiopian students.

One of them, Asher, made aliyah with his family six years ago.

“I have eight brothers and sisters and, since my parents are unemployed, it has been very difficult for us economically,” he said. “I decided to study for a degree in electronics engineering to enable me to assimilate more easily into Israeli society and to be able to support my family in the future… I will proudly serve my country when I join the air force.”

During the course Asher and the rest of what became known as the Kadima Mada Class lived at Adir BeMarom’s residential centre. There they found a warm, structured and supportive environment which helped them to meet the challenge of doing the extra studies necessary to keep up with the diploma course.

“Here they received all the encouragement they needed to cope with the lectures and the extra tuition provided by the college,” said Kadima Mada Projects Manager Sherrie Gazit. “They learned all the background that they missed by not continuing maths and physics at a high level at school and received help with the daily homework that all diploma students are given.”

In addition, the boys underwent a cultural enrichment programme that gave them a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the Land of Israel as well as study trips, Torah study and pastoral care.

Despite the extra workload, the Kadima Mada Class graduated at the same time as the other students – a clear sign of their motivation as well as the quality of the programme.

The graduates also benefit by having to serve for five years in the military instead of three – the final two years on full pay, which can be up to 10 times more than the stipend given to those doing regular national service.

“This means that they can enter civilian life not only with more practical experience in their new profession but, because they have few living expenses while on duty, also with a useful nest egg,” Ms Gazit said. “Their diploma is also recognised internationally so it can cut in half the time it would take them to do an engineering degree.”

Roni Rubenstein, Chair of the UJA-Federation of New York’s Ethiopian Israeli Task Force, said: “We are thrilled with the success of this programme and continues to be committed to the full integration of Ethiopian Israelis into Israeli society.”

Adir BeMarom Director Rabbi Itzik Laslo, who became a father figure to the boys on the programme, said Kadima Mada and his college enjoyed a deepening cooperative relationship.

“We have a joint objective,” Rabbi Laslo said, “to nurture and promote technological excellence among all populations in order to strengthen Israel’s army, security, economy and society with a deep understanding that the focal point is on national values, excellence in education and sharing the burden.”

Now, Adir BeMarom has received official recognition to be able to offer most of the diploma course on its new campus.

“This means that future participants in the programme would only have to travel to Emek HaYarden College once a week giving them more time to study and cutting costs,” Ms Gazit said. “Now we’re looking for funding to continue the programme and to equip the electronics laboratories at Adir BeMarom’s new college.”