By Kate Matelan ’10
When a group of passionate Bucknellians work to further the Right to Dream (RtD) charity, anything is possible.
A few years ago, Bucknell classmates and friends Amanda Sidman ’08, Kerry Powers ’08, Michelle Walker ’08, Alex Ellis ’08, Mackenzie Duane ’08, Erin Doyle ’08, Alex Coleman ’08, Ann Gustafson ’08 and Michael Hirsch ’07 came together to support the first U.S. chapter of the charity.
The RtD Academy, founded in 1999 by British entrepreneur Tom Vernon, blends the benefits of a classroom education with those of an on-the-field soccer education. The tenets of the Ghana-based Academy help children in extreme poverty achieve their highest potential and, in turn, work to improve the lives of their families and greater communities. Many of the Academy students, hosted by families such as Hirsches and Powers, have received full scholarships at private boarding schools and leading colleges and universities. Other students have gone on to sign contracts with professional soccer clubs.
In 2005, the Powers family hosted CK Kumah ’13, now a midfielder for the Bucknell men’s soccer team, and Kerry experienced firsthand how the charity advanced African students. The Powers inspired other Bucknell families and friends to further the cause and host students as well. “Being a part of hosting CK from the Right to Dream school is one of the most moving experiences for me,” she says. “He is an integral part of my family.”
In March 2011, this energetic group of young alumni and close friends raised more than $100,000 at their second annual Right to Dream cocktail benefit to help advance the new girls’ RtD Academy.
In 2010, the charity, which began as a boys’ program, decided to use its proven methods to help empower young girls and advocate for their rights. To combat gender inequality, expected familial roles and shortened schooling years facing females in Africa, the Academy will matriculate its first female class in September 2012. These girls will participate in a youth soccer league in conjunction with classroom teachings.
“This girls’ program will create a ripple effect,” says Powers. “What is starting out as a class of 16 girls will positively affect hundreds of young girls throughout Ghana.”
The money these Bucknellians have raised from their second annual benefit will aid in furthering the ambitions of the RtD girls’ school. More than 350 people, including dozens of Bucknell alumni, friends and families, filled the event at the Gansevoort Park Hotel in NYC last March and proved the power of a silent auction.
Hirsch and all those involved credit the overwhelming support from the Bucknell community as a means of reaching their fundraising goals. Hirsch says that he learned the power of service as an undergraduate.
“I participated in numerous philanthropic efforts through my affiliation with SAE, but the one that was always most special to me was volunteering as a youth basketball coach at the Milton YMCA,” he says. “I believe that sports can have a great impact on the lives of our youth. Participating in this over my time at Bucknell was truly enjoyable and something I knew I wanted to stay involved with after graduation.”
With the assistance of the U.S. chapter of the charity and its future fundraising efforts, the RtD Academy will continue to foster dedicated students and impressive leaders — both male and female. As Sidman notes, “Everybody deserves the right to dream. We’re proud to be part of changing the lives of women in Africa.”
For more information on the Right to Dream academy, go to www.righttodream.com.
First row, L to R: Mackenzie Duane ’08, Amanda Sidman ’08, Brooke Cavanaugh, Nick Carcaterra. Middle row: Kerry Powers ’08, Erin Doyle ’08. Top row: Alex Coleman ’08, Michael Hirsch ’07, Michelle Walker ’08.
photo by Joann Cancro Photography
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