The ceremonial inauguration of the 12th edition of the Bridge Scholarships Program took place at the Presidential Palace on November 27, 2013. The event was attended by First Lady Anna Komorowska who assumed an honorary patronage over it, and Minister Jacek Michałowski, Chief of the Chancellery of the President of Poland.
‘I am glad that I can for the second time support this extremely important initiative, which opens the road to education at Polish universities for gifted young people from villages and small towns,’ said Anna Komorowska.
‘A Roman proverb says that audaces fortuna iuvat, that is “fortune favors the brave”. You are brave, because despite serious objective difficulties you have decided to continue your studies, and what is more, you are brave enough to ask for granting you a scholarship; you were not afraid to do that, not ashamed,’ the wife of the President of Poland told the scholarship holders present at the inauguration ceremony.
The ceremony opening the 12th edition of the Bridge Scholarships Program was attended by the representatives of organizations and institutions supporting the Program, including Professor Jerzy Dietl, President of the Educational Enterprise Foundation which is the Program Manager, President of the Agricultural Property Agency Leszek Świętochowski, Director of the Education and Publishing Department of the National Bank of Poland Dariusz Jadowski, President of the Foundation of the National Bank of Poland Board Zbigniew Matuszewski, President of the BGŻ Foundation Board Małgorzata Zdzienicka-Grabarz, President of the Orange Foundation Jadwiga Czartoryska, President of the Professor Bronisław Geremek Center Jolanta Kurska, President of the PZU Foundation Board Bogdan Benczak, President of the Rural Development Foundation Piotr Szczepański and President of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland Paweł Łukasiak. Among the guests were also John P. Claussen, Country Manager and Marian Sewerski, Member of the Management Board of Chevron, the company which hosted Polish interns in the USA under the Polish-American Internship Initiative.
Jerzy Koźmiński, President of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, greeted the participants and emphasized the unique nature of the Bridge Scholarships Program, pointing to its two special features. Firstly, the Program is financed by a coalition of various institutions and organizations, including a network of 100 local non-governmental organizations. Secondly, it provides an opportunity for high schools leavers from small localities to continue education and that for sure encourages many of them to make an uneasy decision to study at a university despite their family’s difficult financial situation. Ant that is what we call the bridge between the high school and university,’ said PAFF President.
During the ceremony, the Fist Lady presented a group of scholarship holders who achieved the best results in their first year of studies with diplomas and the scholarships for the second year.
On behalf of the distinguished scholarship holders the acknowledgments were conveyed by Małgorzata Gałka, a 3rd year student at the Faculty of Management and Production Engineering at Łódź University of Technology. ‘For many of us, the Bridge Scholarships are the key to the world. They open the door behind which there are endless opportunities. I would like to thank you not only for financial support, for help in personal and scientific development but also for noticing us and making us feel special and needed,’ said Małgorzata Gałka.
The scholarship holders also presented Ms Anna Komorowska and Chief of the Chancellery of the President of Poland Jacek Michałowski with the painting by Małgorzata Zembko, graduate of the Faculty of Painting at the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, who was a scholarship holder at her first year of studies and the winner of the Top Student competition for the highest average in the first year of studies.
At the end of the ceremony a concert was performed by the Bridge Scholarships Program participants.
The Bridge Scholarships Program was launched in 2002 in response to a serious social problem – the clear disparity of access to higher education between urban and rural youth. The Program helps talented young people from small localities. The Program makes it easier for talented young people from small towns and villages, from families with low income, to make a decision to continue education at universities by offering them a possibility to obtain the first-year scholarship. It is addressed to the high-school leavers who were accepted at the first year of full-time day studies leading to a Master’s degree, come from villages and small towns of up to 20,000 residents, especially former state-owned farm areas. Eligible to apply for a scholarship of PLN 500 a month are high-school leavers from families with low income who did very well at school.
So far, more than 17,000 scholarships have been granted under the Program. Scholarships for the first year of full-time day studies leading to a Master’s degree have been granted to more than 12,000 high-school leavers, including 821 scholarships under the present 12th edition.
The program is currently one of the largest non-governmental scholarship systems in Poland and its offer transcends support for the first year of studies. Scholarship holders who do extremely well in their academic pursuits have a chance for assistance in successive years of study – for the second year they may enter the “Top Student” competition, try for corporate scholarships for their third and fourth years, a “Study Abroad” initiative and doctoral scholarships as well as for an internship at renown American companies under the Polish-American Internship Initiative. Additionally, thanks to the ‘Diploma of Dream’ campaign carried out under the Program, more than 100 local NGOs got involved in supporting above 1700 scholarship holders.
The “Bridge Scholarships” are currently financed by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, the National Bank of Poland, the PZU (State Insurance Group) Foundation, the BRE Bank Foundation, the BGK Jan Kanty Steczkowski Foundation, the Orange Foundation, the National Bank of Poland Foundation, The BGŻ Foundation, the Rural Development Foundation and a coalition of local non-governmental organizations cooperating with the Stefan Batory Foundation and the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland which got involved in the program under the ‘Diploma of Dreams’ campaign. The undertaking is carried out with the support of the Agricultural Property Agency, Professor Bronisław Geremek Center and Unit for Social Innovation and Research ‘Shipyard’ Foundation.
For the 12th edition of the Program, the Partners have disbursed PLN 78 million, including PLN 45 million provided by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.