The ceremony opening the 13th edition of the Bridge Scholarships Program was attended by representatives of organizations and institutions supporting the undertaking, that is Rafał Grodzicki, Member of the PZU Życie S.A Management Board (as the representative of the PZU Group); Wojciech Zbrożek, Vice-President of the Agricultural Property Agency and Mariusz Sikora, President of the Kietrz Agricultural Enterprise Management Board; Dariusz Jadowski, Director of the Education and Publication Department of the National Bank of Poland, prelate Jan Drob, President of the “Dzieło Nowego Tysiąclecia” Foundation; Zbigniew Matuszewski, President of the NBP Foundation Management Board; Małgorzata Zdzienicka-Grabarz, President of the BGŻ Foundation, Jadwiga Czartoryska, President of the Orange Foundation; Piotr Szczepański, President of the Rural Development Foundation; Paweł Łukasiak, President of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland; Dorota Dąbrowski, Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland, and Professor Jerzy Dietl, President of the Educational Enterprise Foundation, which is the Program Manager.
Jerzy Koźmiński, President of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation welcomed the participants of the meeting. He pointed to two unique features of the Bridge Scholarships Program, namely: the coalition of the Program’s partners comprising many institutions and organizations, including the network of 100 local NGOs, and the eponymous “bridge” leading to studies, that is the chance to obtain the scholarship by high school leavers from villages and small towns right after the school-leaving exams, which for sure encourages some of them to make the uneasy decision to study despite the difficult financial situation of their families. “The survey carried out among the scholarship holders shows that almost one half of them wouldn’t decide to continue their education at university if they didn’t have a prospect of obtaining the bridge scholarship under the Program,” emphasized the PAFF President.
“If it was not for the initiatives like the Bridge Scholarships Program, for many able people from low-income families the way of academic career would be closed,” Professor Tomasz Nałęcz said. On behalf of the President of the Republic of Poland and his wife he thanked the Program partners for their involvement and congratulated all scholarship holders. Mrs. Anna Komorowska, the Honorary Patron of the Program, could not attend the inaugural ceremony herself but conveyed her appreciation for achievements of the scholarship holders in a video. “The diplomas which you are receiving today, are the award for your work and exceptional efforts at school. I am sure all the hopes pinned on you will come true and you will successfully study at university faculties selected by you,” said the First Lady.
The group of scholarship holders who perform best were given diplomas by Minister Marek Ratajczak, Professor Tomasz Nałęcz, Rafał Grodzicki, Member of the PZU Życie S.A. Management Board, and co-host of the event, and Jerzy Koźmiński, PAFF President. Katarzyna Nawrotek, Ph.D. at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Protection at Łódź University of Technology, awarded with the title of the “Student – Inventor 2013/2014” by the President of Kielce University of Technology and the gold medal of the World Intellectual Property Organization in the category “The Best Woman Inventor” at the 42nd International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva in 2014 spoke on behalf of the scholarship holders.
The host of the ceremony was Radosław Jasiński, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation Program Director, and the piano concert was given by Kacper Odrobny, this-year Bridge Scholarship holder, the student of the 1st year at the Academy of Arts in Szczecin.
Bridge Scholarships are addressed to ambitious and able school-leavers from villages and small towns, coming from low-income families, who want to continue their education at a university. The program was initiated by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation in 2002, as a response to a serious social problem which is the clear disparity of access to higher education between the urban and rural youth. Many talented young people cannot study at university mainly for financial reasons.
During 13 years, the Bridge Scholarships Program transformed into an extensive scholarship system, under which the scholarships granted for the first year of study open the possibility to apply for scholarships for subsequent years. The students who perform well can obtain scholarships for 2nd, 3rd and 4th years as well as language-training scholarships, scholarships for studying abroad for some time, for internships abroad and in Poland, and doctoral scholarships.
The Bridge Scholarships are one of few non-governmental scholarships programs operating on such a big scale in Poland. It is possible thanks to involvement of a broad group of Partners: the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, the National Bank of Poland, the PZU Foundation, the BGK Foundation, the Orange Foundation, the BGŻ Foundation, the Rural Development Foundation, the Kietrz Agricultural Enterprise and a coalition of ca. 100 local NGOs. The Program is implemented with the support of the Agricultural Property Agency and managed by the Educational Enterprise Foundation.
So far, under the program 18,200 various scholarships have been awarded, including over 13,300 for the 1st year of study. In the academic year 2014/15, the total of 1,230 students and doctoral students received scholarships, including 811 – for the 1st year of study. For thirteen rounds of the Program, the Partners have disbursed PLN 85 million, including PLN 53.7 million from PAFF.