Jusoor Academic Mentorship Program

Article by Hang Le, SVR volunteer
January 22, 2021

On January 26th, 2021, I interviewed Grace Atkinson Executive Director at Jusoor to learn more about Jusoor and its Academic Mentorship program. Jusoor was founded in 2011 by a group of Syrian expatriates (from the US, Canada, the Gulf countries, and the UK) who wanted to address the huge disparities in education and work opportunities that they had seen among Syrian youth. They started working with Syrian students to help them in applying for scholarships abroad, writing CVs, and applying for jobs. With the changing context of the Syrian diaspora driven by the war, Jusoor’s areas of work have evolved to now include: Syrian Refugee Education, Jusoor Scholarship program, Academic Mentorship program, Professional Development program, and Entrepreneurship program.

Jusoor’s mentorship program was set up from the beginning to connect youth inside Syria with the diaspora to pursue higher education abroad. As a grassroots initiative, it evolved very organically, and by 2019, it had mentored more than 870 students. In addition to matching peers to peers, this program also offered webinars on various topics related to applying to universities, scholarships, and entrepreneurship. They took a break in 2019 to re-evaluate the program, and Jusoor is now in the stage of relaunching it.

Good practices and lessons learned

  • Coordinating the mentoring program should be a paid responsibility; or if you have to work with a voluntary staff member, have a very clear structure and documentation in place to ensure you will not lose institutional knowledge

  • Set clear expectations for both mentors and mentees (e.g. the frequency of interaction, what they hope to be mentored on, etc.)

  • The matching process should consider the mentees’ goals, what they need help with, how much they already know about the application process, and how prepared they are to apply. For youth who are at the beginning of their information gathering process, the program can offer webinars on general information and frequently asked questions.

  • For outreach to potential mentees, make sure you are using communication channels and tools that the youth themselves are using. For example, if everyone is using Facebook, you should use that as well instead of having to develop a new website or app.

  • Start small then scale up

Learn more about the experience of one of Jusoor`s  recipients here

Meet SVR Volunteer, Hang Minh Le

Hang Minh Le, SVR Working Group 1 Volunteer; University of Maryland-College Park 

Hang M. Le (she/her) is a PhD candidate in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland-College Park (USA). Her research interests include the political economy of development and humanitarian aid, refugee education, and global education policies. Hang has worked on various projects with organizations including Save the Children, the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), and the Aspen Institute. Originally from Hanoi, Vietnam, she received a BA in Educational Studies and Political Science from Swarthmore College (PA, USA).