The Foundation for Excellence provides scholarships to students with high potential who do not have the financial ability to go to college; it also makes them future-ready with mentorship programmes, online courses, and mock interviews.Roshni Balaji
A meagre three percent of India’s population has completed their graduation, according to the Census of 2011. The numbers are dismal even when the parameter of literate population is taken into account: only 25.5 percent of literates in the country get an opportunity to pursue academics after Class XII.
One of the main reasons many do not pursue higher studies is the lack of financial support. Many students give up on their dreams of going ahead with higher education simply because their family cannot afford to send them to college.
Foundation for Excellence is an establishment that was started to bridge this gap. It provides scholarships to students who desire to pursue engineering or medicine but do not possess the funds to go ahead.
“My father passed away a few years ago because of Hepatitis C. We had exhausted most of our money on his medical treatment. Our financial condition was deplorable. That’s when I got to know about the scholarship Foundation for Excellence was offering through a friend. They helped me fulfill my aspiration of taking up MBBS,” Nabin Chowdhary, a student at Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, told YourStory.
Since their inception in 1994, the foundation has laid a path for 52,027 students to follow their dreams by providing scholarships worth Rs 128 crore.
Several students across the country give up on higher education despite getting good grades because of financial constraints. Hence, they are shut out from rewarding careers, amassing key skills, and staying competitive. Instead, they take up jobs that don’t pay well.
Foundation for Excellence is aiming to help such students break out of this vicious circle.
“India has a plethora of students with enormous potential. They all tend to score really well in their board exams. The only aspect that hampers their growth is the lack of funds. Engineering and medicine are some of the paths that are widely preferred, but they cost a fortune. We financially assist those students who want to make a career in these fields,” explains Sudha Kidao, Managing Trustee, Foundation for Excellence.
Foundation for Excellence was established in 1994 by husband-wife duo Prabhu Goel and Poonam Goel. Prabhu completed his engineering from IIT Kanpur, and then went on to pursue a PhD from Carnegie Mellon. He then worked with IBM for a few years before becoming an entrepreneur in the US.
During the course of his academic journey, many of his friends and acquaintances helped him financially, and Prabhu realised he would not have been able to follow his dreams without their help.
When he began ruminating on this thought, he stumbled upon the idea of starting a non-governmental organisation to help low-income students pursue higher education. He sold his company, Gateway Design, and, with the help of his wife, started Foundation for Excellence in the US. They launched their operations in India in 2003 and the team now works out of their office in Bengaluru.
The couple believes that educating the youth can make the world a better place to live in.
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Identifying the most deserving students and ensuring that the funds for their education reach them is a huge challenge, but Foundation for Excellence has a process in place. “Once we receive applications from students, they are screened for eligibility. We take a look at their Class X and XII grades, and examine the family’s income declaration. One of the volunteers of the foundation also makes it a point to visit the student’s residence as part of the background check. Only after all the criteria are met, a scholarship is granted,” Sudha said.
Every scholar is also asked to take a pledge to financially support at least two other students in the future for their education.
“We have established a pay forward model, since it is self-sustainable, and ensures longevity of the programme to transform the lives of underprivileged students and their families. In the last two years, close to Rs 50 lakh has been added to the corpus by alumni alone,” Sudha told YourStory.
Ramachandran Chidambaram had bagged an admission in National Institute of Technology, Trichy. But since his father did not have a stable income, he had decided to turn down the offer. As soon as he got to know about Foundation for Excellence’s scholarship programme, he was able to pursue electrical engineering.
“Now, I am working with a financial technology company called Arcesium. Since I wanted to do my bit to help other aspiring students I went on to support the education of two scholars,” he explained.
It is not only the 600 alumni who sponsor the education of students; even corporates and charitable trusts like Capgemini, Bajaj Auto, and Michael and Susan Dell Foundation chip in.
Foundation for Excellence also assists students to develop their skills through its mentorship programme, where eminent people from the corporate world counsel and train students to ensure they have a promising career.
Apart from that, the foundation also focuses on developing the skill sets of students by throwing open and recommending online courses as well as facilitating mock interviews, and aptitude tests. Both mentorship as well as the skill development programmes are free of cost for the students, and are sponsored by corporates or charitable trusts.
Other organisations like Vidya and LetzChange too offer scholarships for students who want to pursue higher education in India, but Foundation for Excellence claims to be the only NGO that extends help with regard to mentorship and skill development.