At the center of this story lies young adult refugees like Mohammed who, while still a boy, lost his father to terrorism in Somalia. After this trauma, he spent his teens in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya — a camp his family was forced to flee only a few months ago.  Then, something changed.

Blue Rose Compass (BRC) — a nonprofit dedicated to giving refugees a secondary and university education —  came to Dadaab and interviewed Mohammed.  Since that meeting, Mohammed’s life has taken a dramatic upward turn.

After proving himself a gifted student, Mohammed was selected by Blue Rose Compass for a full scholarship to go to United World College in the USA while receiving financial and living support during his studies. Today, Mohammed is still in disbelief that such an opportunity has been granted to him.  He also talks of the Ivy League universities he will soon apply to, the new academic interests he has developed and a recently discovered passion for hiking and outdoor activities.

At the NY-based Global Citizen Festival this year, it was announced that many more students are due to receive the life-changing opportunity that Mohammed has. As declared on-stage on September 22nd, Hult University in Dubai committed four full scholarships to refugees, while Princeton and other Ivy League and state universities have made statements of intent to do the same next year.  Yet, the major government-led commitment came from the Ministry of Education of Argentina, who pledged to fund 1,000 tertiary scholarships for Syrian refugees to study in the country.

This incredible announcement was entirely down to, both the relentless campaigning of our partners at BRC and the 24,000 Global Citizens who took action this year.

"In the past three months I’ve experienced the power of Global Citizen to create change,” said Blue Rose Compass Founder Lorna Solis. “Since our partnership began, university deans of admission have experienced a tsunami of activism [including at least] 20,000 emails requesting scholarships for refugees.”

Blue Rose Compass identifies recipients of the scholarships by traveling to conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America and meeting with young adults, especially girls, both internally displaced and in camps. Young people who have been affected by conflict or crisis, many with exceptional academic talent and leadership qualities, turn out in the thousands at the career days and interview or coaching sessions Solis organizes at refugee camps, or community centers.

She says that she is always stunned by the volume of interest in what can be just a handful of scholarship positions and sees the genuine desire of many refugees and displaced young people to continue their education. Her organization then helps them to apply to top universities and even jobs once their education is completed. That helps them to reach their full potential but most importantly so that they can help break the cycle of poverty for them and their families. Once in the country where they study, BRC assists them settling into their new environment by supporting them with such things as   opening a bank account, securing their housing, making sure they have all the right supplies for school including clothing, laptop, and other things.

Another exceptional BRC student is Rama, a Palestinian refugee living in Lebnanon.  Due to her refugee status she was unable to secure employment in the country she has spent all of her life in. A more than frustrating situation for a talented and hard-working student who had graduated with top of her class in Business Administration.  

Equipping herself with skills that made her employability indisputable was one possible path for Rama, yet paying for further education was not affordable. So, the MBA awarded to Rama by BRC at Hult University in Dubai has been the fork in the road Rama was dreaming of. In her own words, “Since my father’s death 10 years ago, my family and I have struggled. This scholarship not only gave me an opportunity to have the life and career I have always dreamt of, but I am now helping my brother to fulfill his dreams.”

This story does not and cannot stop with Mohammed and Rama. The world is facing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. There is still so much more to be done to enable the over 60 million displaced people to regain their dignity and have control of their lives and future. A proper education is necessary to have the strong foundations needed in order to secure the foundation that will enable you to secure employment. The value of education is often under-prioritized in comparison to basic necessities such as food, water and shelter.  The situation is even worse for university level students whose higher education has been disrupted and only 1% of refugees of this age are currently accessing tertiary education.

Migration laws are strict and refugee visas are in short supply so they are heavily restricted, profiled and face long waits trying to access safety and study opportunities in new countries. As a result, an estimated 5 million refugees over 18 years old are missing out on the chance, despite their capabilities, to further their learning.

Refugee learners, like their non-refugee counterparts, have enormous potential to contribute positively to the economic development of their host or resettlement country, as well as their country of origin. These are some of the brightest minds of our generation and we risk losing their insights and contribution to the world. This is why the scholarships announced on the Global Citizen stage, both from governments and universities are a crucial lifeline to many.

They are also not simply a lifeline to the individual, but a beacon of hope for their communities. The experience of receiving an education that broaden their horizons and being exposed to a variety of cultures among the student body, unites these students with a world that they could have very easily have rejected out of trauma. Mohammed speaks to his own personal revelation movingly— as a Muslim in the refugee camp in Kenya, he was brought up to hold negative views of the West. Yet receiving the scholarship and studying alongside students from all over the world has changed his worldview dramatically. He no longer speaks of division from the West, for now he feels hope.

Please help organizations like Blue Rose Compass to give more young refugees the opportunity to achieve all that they are capable of and most importantly, to become agents of change in an increasingly complicated world.

How you can help:

— Take our action to email universities or support or start a new petition to your university to offer scholarships for tertiary refugees.

— Donate to organizsations like Blue Rose Compass

— If you are a university staff member, administrator or alumnus, please contact the Deputy Director of Global Policy and Advocacy, Madge Thomas, today to talk to us about what your university can do:


Defeat Poverty

24,000 Global Citizens Help Put 1,000 Refugees Through University

By Katie Dallas