A Fresh Start

Written by Molly MacCready, CROSO's Executive Director

When CROSO Scholars begin their college, university or technical school, most have found that it is a “fresh start.” With the CROSO Scholarship, they are able to focus more on their studies and each scholar has shared how important it is that they don’t have to worry about how they will cover their tuition, housing, food or supply expenses each term. When they arrive at their schools, they often find that many of their classmates come from wealthy backgrounds and have attended some of the most prestigious private secondary schools (high schools) in the country. Our scholars take great pride in the fact that they are able to compete with these classmates and that they often are acknowledged as leaders within their schools.

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During one of our CROSO Scholar Gatherings in November, one of our newer scholars was sharing what this fresh start meant to him. Afterwards, Otukei Francis, one of our oldest scholars (both in age and tenure with CROSO) shared some great wisdom with the younger and newer CROSO Scholars. Despite the fact that their looks, behavior, or ability to pay school fees on time no longer point toward their background of having lived and/or worked on the streets, Francis still encouraged them to share their personal history with their classmates. Francis explained that sharing this will serve as a testimonial for what is possible. He went on to share that it also might increase their classmates’ ability to connect with and better understand people of different backgrounds in the future. Since so many do come from wealthy backgrounds, they may never have had to question the stereotypes about people who are living on the margins of society. So, while the CROSO Scholarship does provide the opportunity for a fresh start in many ways, Francis gave a strong argument for why it was important for people to remember where they came from.

Having known Francis for the past eleven years, it was a pretty neat moment for me to see him in this role of mentor, leader, and respected elder among the CROSO Scholars. As Francis continues his bachelor studies in medicine and surgery, I know those aspects of his character will only get stronger. It’s not hard to imagine Dr. Otukei as the trusted and compassionate local doctor who breaks down barriers and provides healthcare to all. I can’t wait to see that happen.