For years, high school students have faced the challenge of making two crucial decisions during those final years of school: choosing whether to go for arts or science and the big dilemma of choosing what faculty to attend and what subject to study in university.
The confusion of students does not only come from the lack of knowledge about the different fields of study and the different careers, it is also attributed to the pressure posed by the family who is mostly influenced by obsolete ideas about success in the professional path, according to Ahmed Saeed, co-founder of iSpark.
iSpark was established two years ago with the aim of providing high school students with a full package that allows them to make career related decisions in a stress-free manner. Traverse is one of four programs that iSpark presents, which gives students a glimpse of the different fields they can explore and the activities they can participate in.
The other three programs include the Major Exploration Program, which is where they team up with universities to design short courses dedicated to school students to give them an idea about each field of study, the Career Discovery Program that provides training on presentation skills, interviewing skills and career coaching, and finally, an Entrepreneurship Competition for high school students.
The competition, sponsored by US Aid, is the first of its kind in Egypt that involves teenagers from all over the country.
Few thousands of young high school students gathered in the main entrepreneurial hub, The Greek Campus, as part of the second edition of Traverse to enjoy a day of activities, entertainment, and above all, to gather some insight on their education and career path.
The one-day event included speakers, panel discussions and a talent show, while on campus, there were numerous booths where more than 20 entities that provide extracurricular activities and study programs introduced themselves and what they offer to the participating youth.
The booths scattered around campus bore the logos of IElTS, Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, Farid Khamis Foundation, Basma, MUN, The Insider, Remal, Aiesec and those of many other organizations. They distributed flyers, answered the questions of students and some even provided onsite registry to apply for scholarships.
This year’s speakers at Traverse included actress Salma Abu Deif, Egyptian fashion icons Okhtein, swimming champion Farida Osman, social media comedian Abdel-Rahman Ihab known as Abdoul, renowned photographer Ahmed Hayman and promising singer Abdel-Rahman Roshdy.
The selected speakers were chosen young on purpose so that they have a greater impact on the moral of the even younger participants. “I want to present success stories that high schoolers can relate to and thus believe that success is attainable in the short term,” say Saeed. Each speaker had an important message to convey.
“Nothing comes easy but hard work pays off,” says Mounaz Abdel-Raouf, one of the two sister founders of Okhtein, a high-end Egyptian handbags brand that is gaining popularity locally and internationally. The sisters behind the brand are Mounaz and Aya, 26 and 25, who are great role models for women entrepreneurs.
In their speech, they mention that they had a vision and started out on their own on a very low budget. Aya explains that when they started out their company, she realized they knew nothing about business, “luckily, my younger brother had started studying business and I studied with him, going through his presentations and books. This helped us a lot together with Mounaz’s knowledge of marketing.”
Okhtein’s international success that manifested in pictures of celebrities wearing their designs brought them a lot of popularity at home. They won first prize in the first Vogue Arabia Competition last year.
“Okhtein focuses on philanthropy; we make it a point to give back to the community and we work with many NGOs in Stabl Antar, El-Duwaika and Fayoum,” says Mounaz.
Rising Sufi singer Abdel-Rahman Roshdy has a similarly interesting story. He discovered his talent at the age of 19 when he had already started studying marketing. However, he trained on his own, produced songs and set an objective to meet with the famous band Cairokee.
“I followed them for two years until I decided to go knocking on their door. I went to their studio and told them that I wanted to sing. I was lucky enough that they gained interest in my work, and I joined them in an event with 8,000 spectators called “Sound Clash” in March 2015, which was my first time on stage. I sang a Sufi song on rock music and it was mostly improvised,” says Roshdy.
From then onwards, he became recognized and started focusing more on his talent, which brought about many other opportunities. What characterizes Roshdy is his passion for Sufi chants and his dream of developing a new genre mixing it with modern music to make it more appealing to the youth.
Saeed speaks of the daily activities of iSpark partners with much enthusiasm, explaining how they hold up to seven meetings a day to enlarge their network of partners and make a real change. He concludes that they are focusing on the change of culture, “young people experience a very high level of exposure, and through the internet, they can get the best curricula in the world, but the social norms still stop them from studying what they love and choosing their career path freely.”
Giving the youth a platform that will help them make these important life decisions of where and what to study, and what they want their career to be, is essential. Traverse offers just that, giving them the motivation and support they need during those late school years.