Private scholarships offer Micronesians access to opportunity

Former Habele Scholar Francis "Cisco" Yarofalyango of Lamotrek Atoll graduated from the Yap Catholic High School this summer. He will be attending Saint Martin's University in Washington state this fall. (HABELE)

Former Habele Scholar Francis “Cisco” Yarofalyango of Lamotrek Atoll graduated from the Yap Catholic High School this summer. He will be attending Saint Martin’s University in Washington state this fall. (HABELE)

KOLONIA, Yap—A dozen Micronesian students are headed to prestigious private schools this fall, thanks to Habele K-12 tuition scholarships. These students will attend the independent school of their family’s choosing.

Described as “an investment in human capital,” these grants are funded by donations from former Peace Corps volunteers, tourists, and other Americans with a personal connection to Micronesia.

Local ownership and sustainability are emphasized throughout the scholarship process by incorporating competition, incentives, and publicity. Habele is an all-volunteer charity based in South Carolina, and relies on private contributions to fund its scholarship programs. Since 2006, Habele has provided nearly $75,000 in targeted tuition assistance for Micronesian students.

Many of the scholars’ families come from isolated islands and atolls spanning Yap and Chuck states. They have been awarded tuition assistance covering 50 to 100 percent of their 2017-18 tuition and fees. These students will attend independent K12 schools on the islands of Yap, Chuuk, and Pohnpei that have among the highest completion rates, test scores, and postsecondary placements in the nation. Most students will be housed throughout the school year with relatives or host families.

The beautiful—and strategically located—islands of the Federated States of Micronesia struggle with isolation and limited natural resources. 

Comprising many small islands, languages, and ethnic groups, FSM was organized in 1986 as an independent republic in free association with the United States. U.S. aid sustains an economy dominated by the public sector. These bilateral payments, managed by the Office of Insular Affairs, are set to expire in 2023.

Habele’s funding is always focused on individual students, not districts or schools. Each year, applications outpace scholarship awards by nearly 10-to-one. 

Other Habele efforts include sending thousands of boxes of donated books to public school libraries, providing equipment for school sports clubs and specialty equipment for innovative extracurricular programs.

Established by former Peace Corps volunteers, Habele’s singular mission is the advancement educational access and accomplishment in Micronesian communities.

“For a decade now, ambitious Habele scholars have been making their families, teachers, and communities proud through incredible academic achievement,” noted a Habele director. “Extending ambitious students the opportunity to succeed is the simple part.”

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