IMPACT: A Helping Hand for Ethiopian-Israeli Youth

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When Brancha, an Ethiopian-Israeli girl, was in ninth grade, her mother died. Her grades plummeted, and she was placed in a low-performing vocational high school that held little interest for her.

Fortunately, Brancha had advocates at her side from the Ethiopian National Project (ENP), a Federation partner agency, whose youth programs she had attended for two years. ENP staff helped her refocus on academics and negotiated a new school placement for her. Now a high school graduate, Brancha serves as a police officer in an elite IDF unit.

Brancha’s triumph despite adversity is common for students at ENP, which works to advance the integration of Ethiopian-Israelis into Israeli society. ENP helps youth in 27 communities overcome the cultural, social and emotional challenges of life in Israel. More than 4,300 students get educational support in its scholastic assistance programs, while nearly 1,900 at-risk youth benefit from 19 outreach centers that provide extracurricular activities, emotional support and leadership opportunities.

Because family support is so critical to the success of Ethiopian-Israeli students, parental involvement is integral to ENP’s programs. Counselors include parents in school-based meetings, mediate difficult family conversations and run workshops that help parents build more effective communication and relationship skills.

“ENP’s work with Ethiopian-Israeli children and youth is making a major impact,” says Roni Akale, ENP’s director-general, who notes that the matriculation rate among participants has nearly reached the national Jewish average of 65%.

ENP’s impact lasts well after participants leave high school. Shira, who grew up near ENP’s Youth Center in Beit Shemesh, now volunteers there as part of her army service. “My work is so meaningful here, especially because I am serving as a personal example to each of the kids—as a soldier, as an Ethiopian-Israeli and as one who came from this very neighborhood,” she says. “They see where I am today, and I hope—and know—that they can reach even greater heights.”

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