Featured Editorial

Imagine Scholar Shares an Exclusive Sponsorship Call to Action from South Africa

Photo Credit: John Helbig
Have you ever heard the saying that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime? Meeting current Imagine Scholar Student Development Manager, John Helbig as a middle school student teaching Vacation Bible School to my children in New Jersey, I had no idea of our lifetime connection or the impact of the altruistic spirit that personifies John as an adult. Before I get too emotional, I ask you to read and share John's inspirational story. This is a personal journey stemming from a spiritual passion that deserves to become a viral sensation as much as any of the social media memes circulated on a daily basis. I proudly introduce my friend, John Helbig.

My name is John Helbig. I grew up as a child of three; raised in central New Jersey. Losing my father to a heart attack at the age of 10, my family drew close and I grew up pretty quickly. I first met Denise back while I was still a teenager but already doing what I love: working with youth. I had been helping with summer five-day clubs for kids ages 5-12 in various neighborhoods. Today, after graduating with a degree in mathematics, I am in rural South Africa working as a Math Student Development Facilitator for high school students at Imagine Scholar, a Non-Profit Organization. 

Going to South Africa, I had my expectations to be in a rural area helping students in need. Within the first week I was slammed with how rough the education system is for these students. I had given a pre-test to the students to gauge their academic level in mathematics, only to find one student unable to answer certain portions because she had never seen the material in school. Speaking with other facilitators, I found out that teachers do not always show up to class, and in the past month, very little teaching was going on since the principal was out with a medical issue. Despite this fact, the students at Imagine Scholar work hard to overcome their obstacles, rather than shy away.

Photo Credit: John Helbig with Njabulo Hlatshwayo
Name: Njabulo Hlatshwayo

Professional Goal: Accountant

Student Quote: "I never lose myself, I am always myself. I’m not like the most of my friends, I don’t get easily pressure by my friends.”

What I’ve noticed about Njabulo: He is a quiet but kind student, always looking where he can improve and helping his fellow Imagine Scholars with mathematics and physics.

Accomplishment: Chess Champion at Imagine Scholar during Term 2 of the academic year. Part of the Electric Vehicle (EV) team that placed 3rd at a competition in Nelspruit.

Growing up in the rural Nkomazi region of South Africa, none of our students are immune to its harsh living situations - nearly half of the students have lost at least one parent; over 30% are orphans. At Imagine Scholar, students get academic, practical and emotional support to achieve their dreams. Imagine Scholar works with students that, but for their birthplace and family finances, would be successful. Students are provided resources and experiences that most rural children cannot access on their own.

I am blessed to not only be able to help these students study mathematics to but to help with Imagine Scholar’s mission to develop students with character, literary competency, community, and critical thinking skills. Within my first week, the students made me feel like part of the Imagine Scholar family, greeting me with smile, hugs and high fives. 
Njabulo is a grade 10 student who faithfully comes to Imagine Scholar 3-4 days a week. He is a natural talent at mathematics and is always studying physics through books, youtube videos, or with a local tutor during one of his one-on-one sessions. Njabulo is in need of a personal sponsorship of $100 a month.

Njabulo is just one of several students in need of partial or full scholarships in amounts ranging from $25-$100. Imagine Scholar also needs supplies for our new classroom built to expand our program to more students. 

You can send support or find information through: http://www.imaginescholar.org/get-involved.php

Here is John's most recent update from his experiences in MpumaLanga, South Africa.  page1image12256
About Imagine Scholar

"Imagine Scholar is a highly selective four-year, after-school mentorship program for talented, disadvantaged youth across the Nkomazi region of South Africa. We offer a student-centric program that focuses on character development, enhancement of critical thinking skills, and overall English proficiency. We work with the brightest students who are additionally hindered by financial hardship. Despite their humble backgrounds these students have high aspirations and are instilled with endless drive. We empower these young leaders to act as catalysts for personal change and provide service to their community. Our program ultimately offers promising youth the tools needed to improve their future, and the future of their community.

Imagine Scholar is an educational development program for inspired youth from the rural Nkomazi region of South Africa. Our program cultivates local talent, and empowers them early on to be the drivers of change in their communities. Through a unique curriculum, students explore and build their personal character, acquire critical thinking skill sets, and develop university-level English proficiency. While on their journey of development, the Imagine Scholar students use their learned skills and unique passions to develop their own social entrepreneurship projects, allowing for immediate tangible change to take place in their communities."