Reflections From A Grace Scholar: Russell Makopa
by Cayman Bentley, PVF’s Program and Communications Associate
The Grace Scholarship Program is the result of a partnership between PVF and a donor to provide the critical gap funding necessary for bright, low-income Zimbabwean students who are a part of the US Achievers Program (USAP) to study at US and European universities. We interview a few of the Grace Scholars each year to learn more about their background, experiences in college, and plans for the future. Below is our interview with Russell Makopa, a student at The College of Wooster.
Tell us about your decision to study outside of your home country.
“At first during my middle school level, I never had ambitions or ideas to study abroad because I did not have much of the exposure that I could find outside Zimbabwe. I always believed that going to University was the best thing ever. In 2019 I met Rebecca Zeigler Mano, The Co-Founder of Usap Community School, she introduced me to the idea that there is life outside Zimbabwe. From that moment my dream was always to study hard, pass my grades and apply to universities in the United States. Being the only child from my family to ever finish high school gave me motivation to keep on pursuing greater heights and be someone in life for my family. I wanted to study abroad so that I can come help with the experience and knowledge that I would have gained and go back to Zimbabwe and solve problems with the knowledge I have acquired. “
Was it difficult transitioning to a different culture?
“Trying to adapt to new cultures in a short period of time was really challenging because I had to be always aware of how I identify people. Having to learn people’s pronouns was the most difficult thing I faced upon coming to the USA. People would often ask me questions like “Do you guys eat chicken in Zimbabwe?”, these questions really gave me a hard time trying to answer because in my mind I thought this was information everyone should know despite our cultural differences.”
What is your greatest accomplishment at school thus far?
“One of my greatest accomplishments so far is being nominated for the Dean’s List for the 2022-2023 academic year. I was also made the club secretary for Club Soccer and I was recently made a residential assistant. For this semester, I was recommended by professors to a Teaching Assistant for Mathematics and Chemistry classes.
Lastly, being able to adapt and fit in with everyone is one of the greatest accomplishments I am proud of myself for.”
How has the Grace Scholarship helped you pursue your goals?
“Being raised by a single mother who suffers from epilepsy has always been hard for me in terms of my academic financial situation. Receiving the Grace Scholarship has really helped me to continue and pursue my academics. Grace Scholarship has given hope that I can become someone in life. I have been able to attend school without having to rely on my sick mother or having to stress her because of my financial situation and this has all been possible because of the Grace Scholarship. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams and giving me hope.”