Endowed Scholarship Uplifts African Students for Generational Change
- Nov 14, 2023
- Gwendolyn Reed
Texas Global has partnered with the African Leadership Bridge (ALB) to create an endowment for students at The University of Texas at Austin who completed part or all of their preparatory education in a country on the African continent. The ALB provides scholarships and resources to students who exhibit a passion for Africa and a drive to serve as leaders in their home countries and beyond.
Given its long history of partnership with Texas Global, the ALB was eager to create a scholarship in perpetuity by establishing the endowment, thus building on the legacy left by previous ALB students at UT Austin.
Leadership, Community and Generosity
UT Austin alum Rick Reeder created the ALB in 2007 with Kenyan student John Kidenda. The two met that year through the Texas Exes job-shadowing program, in which Reeder mentored Kidenda.
When a family illness jeopardized Kidenda’s finances, forcing him to face the possibility of returning to Kenya, Reeder felt an urgency to find a solution. The two envisioned a framework that would offer financial and community support to African students in similar situations. Together they created the nonprofit with a mission to champion the next generation of African leaders at UT Austin.
“There are all of these brilliant, driven students from the continent of Africa who are either not getting the opportunity to come to the U.S. for college or getting to the U.S. and not being able to finish because they can’t afford the fees,” said Kidenda, who now serves as an ALB board member. “The foundation’s goal is to get as many of these students through college as possible. Providing them with the potential to be leaders is the highest-impact thing we can do to influence Africa's development trajectory.”
The ALB prides itself on its “pay it forward” model. Alumni generously invest their resources back into the organization’s mission in numerous ways, whether contributing financially, serving as mentors or joining the board. When scholars lift up those who come after them, it compounds the generational change in Africa that the ALB is committed to.
Board president Natasha Cross says the scholarship is intended to assist students who are naturally inclined to give back to their communities.
“We hope the scholarship application gets to students who are so engaged with the mission of the organization that they are inherently going to do something to drive it forward, even after they graduate,” Cross said.
Nearly all the ALB board members are both African and former UT students. This level of alumni involvement demonstrates the power of paying it forward. Continued engagement allows former scholars to claim a stake in advancing the organization that bolstered their education.
Board members are committed to raising capital to assist students with tuition and other expenses that UT Austin students face. A key component of the African Leadership Bridge mission is to cultivate an environment where participating students can thrive as they study far from their families.
As Kidenda put it, they “don't just give them a check and say, ‘See you later.’ ” The nonprofit aims to serve as a home away from home, fortifying students not just with funding but also with relationship-building and professional development opportunities.
“Whenever you're on campus and away from home, it's easy to forget that you have a tribe,” said UT and ALB alumna and board member Diana Ayoub (’18 finance and economics). “ALB is created to be that tribe that says, ‘Hey, I know what you’re passionate about, and I want to support you in creating change.’ ”
Preparing to Create Change
This Texas Global endowed scholarship is the ALB’s newest initiative. It was created in June 2023 to help students with financial need who completed all or part of their preparatory education in Africa. In August 2023, the first endowed scholarship was awarded to Nigerian student Usomine Omamegbe.
Omamegbe grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and attended school there from elementary through 11th grade. She is now a student at the McCombs School of Business, studying finance and accounting.
Following graduation, Omamegbe plans to return to Nigeria and help to further develop her country using the skills she obtained at UT. She dreams of expanding Nigeria’s financial institutions by creating more affordable options for the many citizens who do not have access to financial advising.
The ALB works toward an Africa in which all citizens recognize their potential, and Omamegbe’s goals align strongly with this purpose. She’s confident that Nigerians will make strong financial decisions when empowered with proper resources and information.
The work Omamegbe strives to do is more important now than ever. Africa is simultaneously the fastest-growing and the poorest continent on the planet. By 2050, there will be more than 1 billion Africans in need of jobs. Africa’s economy must grow alongside its population, with well-equipped and innovative leaders as a driving force.
On campus, Omamegbe is a member of the Black Business Students Association, National Accountants for Black Associates, and the executive board for the African Student Organization. Being awarded the ALB scholarship has allowed her time to invest in these organizations in a way that wasn’t possible before.
“I worked two jobs last year, and I always had reservations on how I would balance that with organizations and classwork,” Omamegbe said. “Being awarded the scholarship has helped me cut down on my working hours, so there's a sense of relief. Now I can put more time into the African organizations that I'm a part of — and through that, give back to the community.”
Bolstering Initiatives, Seizing Opportunities
The ALB endowment presents one of many opportunities at UT to support and celebrate international Longhorns with connections to various countries and regions. Possibilities abound, from global organizations to cultural events and a plethora of scholarship opportunities.
The ALB plans to continue reinforcing the careers and lives of African Longhorns as long as it has the resources to do so. The partnership with Texas Global has fostered the growth of many students, and the group looks forward to offering the ALB Endowed Scholarship each year.
At a large school like UT Austin, said Omamegbe, continuously seeking opportunities can make all the difference in a student’s success. She believes proactivity is the best tool an international student can employ: Stepping into new environments builds confidence that leads to success. Putting oneself in a position to flourish might look like joining a new club, attending an unfamiliar lecture or event, or applying for opportunities that feel intimidating.
“When I first saw this scholarship, it was daunting,” Omamegbe said. “I thought, ‘Why should I even apply to this? What are the chances I'll get picked?’ But I decided to take that leap of faith and apply. I just put my best foot forward, and we're here.”
The African Leadership Bridge Endowed Scholarship is a $5,000 award divided in half, with $2,500 disbursed each semester. Scholarship applications for the 2024-2025 academic year will open February 1, 2024.
You can contribute directly to the endowment and uphold ALB’s mission by donating, volunteering as a mentor or attending one of the many events funding their initiatives. For more information, visit the ALB website.