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Stanford one of nine schools chosen for African education initiative

The MasterCard Foundation has announced an education initiative that, at Stanford, will provide comprehensive support to 20 talented but economically disadvantaged students from Africa over the next eight years.

Stanford is one of nine schools worldwide benefiting from a $500 million MasterCard Foundation education initiative that will support talented but economically disadvantaged students from developing countries.

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program was announced at the United Nations in New York City, as part of a special session marking the launch of Education First, which seeks to ensure all children have access to quality education.

At Stanford, the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program will support five undergraduates each year from Sub-Saharan Africa, according to Karen Cooper, director of financial aid.

Cooper said the first students will enroll in 2013. They will receive comprehensive support for tuition, travel and other educational costs.

Eventually the program will fund 20 students, with the MasterCard Foundation providing $6.5 million over eight years. Additionally, the foundation will provide funding for academic and social support through a graduate assistant position at the Bechtel International Center.

"This is an incredible partnership that will change the lives of some extraordinary young people from the continent of Africa," said Rick Shaw, Stanford's dean of undergraduate admission and financial aid. "They'll be bringing the Sub-Saharan African perspective to the classroom and enriching the Stanford experience for all members of the class. We anticipate these will be the future leaders of Africa."

In its press release announcing the program, the MasterCard Foundation explained its focus on Africa, saying, "The region still lags the world in secondary and higher education completion rates. In order to sustain the continent's rapid growth, it will be essential that its young people have the skills needed to participate in a competitive global economy."

The program is designed to help students gain entry to secondary schools, as well as transition from secondary school to universities, and, ultimately, into the workforce. The Scholars Program will create a peer network of alumni who share a "give-back" ethos.

Besides Stanford, the network includes American University of Beirut – Faculty of Health Sciences, Arizona State University, Ashesi University, Duke University, EARTH University, Michigan State University, the University of California-Berkeley and Wellesley College. The program also includes a partnership with the African Leadership Academy to develop an African-based network for the scholars to access internships and jobs across the continent.

The education of the scholars will be augmented by experiential learning opportunities such as volunteerism and community service.