August 23, 2007 / 9 Elul 5767
Financing a university degree is an expensive proposition for many students throughout the world. For students from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is often impossible. For this reason, the Jewish Agency and its donors throughout the world played a critical role in the creation and maintenance of Atidim, a program that enables capable young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to earn a bachelor’s degree and receive the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives. The program, which combines an academic degree, army service and the receipt of a teacher’s certificate, requires that participants return to the classroom as teachers, so that they can play a role in securing the future of other Israeli children.
Born in the periphery town of Ashdod, Miriam Zecharia, 19, is bright, full of energy, and passionate about the path she has chosen with Atidim’s Military Academics Reserve – Science Teachers Program. “My parents were always encouraging me to think and to learn,” says Miriam. “And I desperately wanted to study at university, but I didn’t want to [financially] burden my parents.”
When it came time for her military service, Miriam made a major life decision: She decided to join Atidim’s first class in the Military Academics Reserve – Science Teachers Program. The program enables students to postpone their military service in order to earn a bachelor’s degree (in English or one of the sciences) and a teaching certificate.
After completing her studies, Miriam will serve in the army for 6 years as an academic officer while working as a science teacher in a disadvantaged high school. She plans to return to her hometown of Ashdod to teach and give back to the community she came from. “I believe that teachers can effect change. And as a teacher in a military uniform, I will command a lot of respect from my students
and will set a personal example of how education is the key to future success.”
Miriam joined Atidim for herself and for her country. She loves teaching and seeing how people think, especially children. She wants to become a chemistry teacher in order to dispel the fear that many children have of this subject. “I want to motivate children to love learning as I do,” she says.
The Atidim in the IDF program has had unprecedented success, ensuring that talented young people from lower socioeconomic 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.
In 1999, the year before Atidim was launched, less than 1% of the Academic Reserves came from Israel’s socially and geographically vulnerable periphery. Today, only five years into the program, over 40% of the IDF Academic Reserves is comprised of Atidim students.
Atidim offers today’s disadvantaged youth a more positive and enriching future. By bolstering traditionally disenfranchised bright young people, including new immigrants, Atidim truly transforms the landscape of Israeli society.
Through Atidim, Israel’s disadvantaged youth will not only receive the education that is essential for building a secure future, but they will help other Israeli children receive the education that is necessary for their success. With your help, the Jewish Agency can continue to support this essential program and to ensure the future of Israel’s youth. To learn more about how you can help, click here.
To learn more about Atidim, click here.