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Phelps Stokes Was Awarded $135,000 from the Merck Foundation to Implement a Health Leadership Development Initiative

Phelps Stokes received a grant to implement a Health Leadership Development Initiative for Afro-Colombian high school students who have shown an interest in pursuing a career in the health sciences.

Washington, DC, November 25, 2010 --( On Friday, November 19th, Phelps Stokes was awarded a grant totaling $135,000 from the Merck Foundation to implement a Health Leadership Development Initiative for Afro-Colombian high school students who have shown an interest in pursuing a career in the health sciences. Three cohorts of 24 students each from the Pacific Coast (72 students in total) will participate in leadership development workshops during their first year and the 2nd year they will take part in an ICFES (Instituto Colombiano para el Fomento de la Educacion Superior) test preparation course focusing on the health sciences. This program will target students in their 4th year of secondary school.

By the end of the program each participant will have a better understanding of essential leadership skills and will have been adequately prepared to take the ICFES exam, which will improve their chances of being admitted to university to pursue studies in the health care field. Following the completion of the exam students will have an opportunity to intern at a variety of health related companies, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and NGOs. Additional funding is being sought to ensure that this program is sustainable and that it can provide financial support to students once they complete secondary school and wish to attend university to pursue health related studies.

The goal of this program is to create a pipeline of culturally aware Afro-Colombian leaders and health care professionals committed to serving their communities of origin and the greater Afro-Colombian population. Colombia is a diverse and multi-cultural country with a considerable Afro-descendant population. The majority of this population, as in the rest of Latin America, lives in conditions of marginalization, violence, and poverty. While there is no available data on the number of Afro-Colombian doctors there is a general consensus that the Afro-Colombian community is facing a deficit of doctors and other health care professionals. This massive disparity in the availability of quality health care for nearly one quarter of the Colombian population is a national public health priority and a key factor in the persistent gap between Afro-Colombians and the rest of the country.

Education is a key to eliminating the disparities. Unless Afro-Colombian students begin attending university in larger numbers and joining the professional workforce these statistics will remain the same.

“We are looking forward to launching this program as it will serve as a jumping off point for our secondary school programs in Latin America and it will support the development of leaders while addressing the unique needs of Afro-descendants in Colombia which will serve as a model for other Latin American programs,” says Tonija Navas, Director, Programs for Latin America and the Caribbean & Special Projects (PLAC-SP).

The program will launch in April of 2011 and will have two components. The first component will focus on Leadership Development. The second component will focus on test preparation for the ICFES Exam. Integrated into both components will be an emphasis on healthcare issues facing the Afro-Colombian community and test preparation for an ICFES exam that specifically tests knowledge of the sciences and mathematics.

Through its education and leadership programs, Phelps Stokes fosters the preparation of principled, culturally and globally aware emerging Afro-descendant leaders who understand the importance of education as well as servant leadership. Ultimately, these emerging leaders will be able to revitalize their communities and offer solutions that catalyze social change in Latin America and the Caribbean, enabling all individuals, regardless of race; gender or income, to live healthy and productive lives.

Phelps Stokes works to connect visionary leaders and organizations with the resources needed to help their big ideas break through in Africa and underserved communities in the Americas. Since 1911, it has launched and incubated landmark institutions such as the UNCF, American Indian College Fund, and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. To learn more visit

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Phelps Stokes
Aaron J. Pope

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