Bartlett High School social studies teacher Brett Weiss knows what it means to the children in Dago, Kenya, to have access to education and he helps by offering scholarships.
“The benefits are tremendous,” he said. “When we give them the scholarships, their life will be dramatically different. These kids grow up with little hope… I’ve seen the change in the children, their families, the teachers in Dago, Kenya.
“The worse thing in the world is when you lose hope. Poverty leads to hopelessness. Typically, students leave school because they’re poor and they don’t see a chance to make their lives better. Now, there’s this attitude, ‘maybe I could get a scholarship and my life could be different.’”
The Bernard and Elsie Weiss Dago Scholarship Fund, established in 2011 and named for Weiss’ late parents, said in January it was offering eight new scholarships.
“I raise money throughout the year,” Weiss said, with the number of scholarships going from 24 to 32. “It all started with one child. To be frank, it’s grown far greater than I could’ve imagined.”
It costs $3,000 to send one student to high school for four years, Weiss said.
“All of these schools are year-round,” he said. “It covers books, fees, everything.”
He started the fund after his second trip to Dago and in honor of his parents, who died in 2005 and 2006.
“They grew up poor,” he said. “I’m the oldest of three boys. They worked hard to care for us. So, this was a way for me to memorialize them by attaching their name.”
“… it would’ve been hard for them to understand,” he said. “(These children are) thousands of miles away. I’d like to think they’re happy looking down on me.”
Weiss travels to Dago every other year and recognizes the challenges the people face there.
“The reality is government doesn’t pay for all of high school,” he said. “99 percent of families do not have money to find their next meal. Where in the world are they going to come up with the money for high school?”
If 80 students enroll in the first grade, only 30-35 will remain by the eighth grade, he said, and that’s when the scholarship process kicks in.
Though there are many children Weiss hopes to support through the scholarship fund, only select recipients will receive an award.
“We really make our selection based on he results of the eighth-grade test,” he said.
To donate online, go to hopefordago.com and click “donate” on the top right. Then, click on “Village Volunteers.” Go to the dropdown menu, choose “Weiss Scholarship Fund” and make your donation. To donate by check, send your contribution to “Village Volunteers” at 5100 South Dawson Street, Suite 202, Seattle, WA 98118 USA. Write “Weiss Scholarship Fund” on the memo line.