America is a land of opportunity. Education is a major key to success and advancement in society. Fortunately, Coptic immigrants value education for their children. However, they are used to the regimented structure of the educational system in Egypt. The educational arena in the United States is vast and bewildering to them.
In California, there are many public and private post secondary educational institutions. The multitude of choices in studies, the variable admission requirements for various institutions, deadlines, and methods of financial assistance from Federal, State and private grants can be confusing and require proper planning and timing.
The Need for a Coptic Educational Foundation
Nabih and Cherif Youssef recognized the need to help students and parents from their personal experiences. They established in 2002 the Coptic Educational Foundations (CEF), in partnership with the Diocese of Los Angeles for the benefit of all youth. Organizations, which register as not-for-profit in the State of California, follow specific guidelines outlined by the State. This includes a mission statement of purpose, types of activities, a board of directors, and an annual financial report of income and expenses, among other requirements. Members of the board of CEF represent church and community leaders, youth and parents. Its mission is to encourage and support Coptic youth in pursuing a degree in post secondary education from an academic, professional or technical institution. It offers the following services to achieve these objectives:
- Individual career counseling for students and their parents
- Tutoring in specific areas
- Preparation to improve college scholastic admission test scores (SAT)
- Advice for government financial aid and scholarship awards
- Merit achievement awards for top high school graduates
The implementation of these activities is best achieved by working closely with various individual churches in the area. Each participating church selects a youth, usually a recent college graduate, to be a liaison with CEF and to mentor others. The mentor is a volunteer who makes arrangements for workshops and seminars.
The Work of the Foundation
Workshops for college applications are held in the fall, prior to November 30th, which is the deadline for admissions in the following academic year. The financial aid workshops are held in January, prior to the March deadline for aid applications. Usually, experts in these areas are the main speakers, followed by a Q & A session with the students and their parents. These workshops are appreciated by all attendees. They are held in many Coptic Churches representing the four regions of the Diocese.
From 2004, CEF arranged with a national organization, to offer SAT preparation courses at a great discount for Coptic youth. Some of the training sessions are held in church halls on a Saturday when enough applicants participate. Otherwise, prospective test-takers attend regularly scheduled training sessions in the community.
The merit achievement award program was started in 2003. A one thousand dollar award was given to each of five top candidates in 2003 and 2004, and increased to seven awards of $2,000 each in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The awards are given based on scholastic achievement, community and church volunteering service, letters of recommendation from teachers and a personal essay by the applicant. The submitted material is evaluated anonymously by a group of young college graduates. The awards are given at a celebration held in a hotel under the guidance of H.G. Bishop Serapion, who presents the awards to the students. The festivities open and close with prayers and refreshments are served. CEF follows private sector principles.
In 2005, a hired consultant conducted a study of the organization and its activities in depth, and came up with recommendations for future expansion. Funding of all activities come from private donations.
CEF is a prime example of the success of partnership between the Church and a private organization in serving Coptic youth and their families. It has an excellent website with an extensive database related to not only the organization, but also to the educational system in California.
Visit CEF on the Web — www.copticedu.org