There is no better way to mark the end of the 2016 school year than to celebrate the individual and collective educational successes of the past few months and years. One example of the WIZO institutions that have been changing lives in Israel for almost a century is the WIZO Maya Rosenberg Municipal Technical High School in Rehovot (sponsored by WIZO Brazil and WIZO France). Five hundred students study at the high school. The learner-centered approach of WIZO Rehovot is reflected in the array of professional training tracks it offers: Information & Communications Technology (ICT), fashion design, education & psychology, communications & film, graphic design, and human resources management.
What might not be apparent from the outside but what cannot be stressed enough is the fact that WIZO Rehovot Technical High School accepts some of the most troubled students in Israel: young people who have abandoned the educational framework, spent time in the streets and even been involved in violence or substance abuse. They often come from homes with serious issues and complexities. WIZO Rehovot does everything possible to turn their lives around and give these young Israelis a fair opportunity for a successful and productive future.
Three Success Stories
There is no better way to understand the impact of WIZO Rehovot's learner-centered and therapeutic approach to education than to hear from its students, many of whom were literally saved by the institution.
"I came to WIZO from a middle school where I felt like an outsider," admits Gil Cohen, an 18-year-old graduate of WIZO Rehovot's graphic design track. "I was not doing well socially, and in class, teachers were constantly adding more and more lessons and homework when nobody had ever bothered to teach us how to study them in the first place. It got to the point where I spent days at home, not interested in going to school. I was lucky in that I have always been interested in magic, a passion of mine since age six. At the end of 9th grade I couldn't take it anymore; I switched schools to WIZO Rehovot. There, from being an introverted, scared, lonely student who had seen less and less of the classroom as the year went on – I found myself beginning to communicate, attending every class, liking my teachers and classmates and enjoying the school's atmosphere. The mask of introverted Gil came off and out came the Gil that had only existed in the world of magic tricks: a kid who liked to be on stage, entertaining people, self-confident, optimistic and talented. During the course of 11th grade I started performing magic tricks in front of small groups of my friends. Now, I appear in front of full auditoriums at community centers and private events. I went to my 12th grade graduation ceremony not only as a student but as the main attraction; I performed in front of 160 graduates and their families. I hope that in the near future I'll become an IDF magician – most people don't even know that the army has one in every annual cycle. WIZO was an amazing experience for me. School, the place that I least wanted to be, became the place that I don't want to leave. For the first time in my life I am flourishing."
Gil continues, "I decided to be interviewed for this article because it's important to me that young people like me who are depressed or struggling for whatever reason know that there is a way out, and that they can realize their dreams. At WIZO Rehovot I learned that there's always a choice. Don't give up or adapt yourself to whatever framework you find yourself in – find the framework that best fits you. WIZO not only accommodated me, it saw who I really was, before I did."
"I came to WIZO Rehovot in 11th grade because I was looking for personal attention that recognized my own talents and strengths," says Gal Ahrak, an 18-year-old graduate of the ICT track. "I chose the ICT track because I imagined that it would allow me to better integrate into the workforce after graduation. Secretly, I also hoped it would help my placement in the army. Slowly I acquired knowledge and experience and made new friends. At the beginning of 12th grade, needing to start a final project, I "started" a mock small business with a few branches in order to demonstrate how an internet network is built and managed in the real world. Studying the world of the internet caused my grades to jump and I even earned a PC technician's certificate. Then came the IDF selection process. It was very important to me to continue growing in the ICT field, which is exactly what I stated at the recruitment center. I certainly wasn't the only one – many students I knew wanted to continue to work with computers as part of their compulsory army service. I was invited to try out for several classified positions within the C4I corps (Command & Control, Communications, Computers and Information corps). After several rounds of tests I was eventually accepted to field intelligence. I have no doubt that my studies helped me pass the military tests: the terminology, theories and professional questions about technology. If I hadn't been in the ICT study track I wouldn't have known what to answer. My studies at WIZO Rehovot helped me acquire a profession that I will use not only as a soldier but afterwards, in life."
"I really enjoy fashion and I wanted to study it in a serious way. I heard that WIZO Rehovot's fashion design study track was excellent and so I left the high school where I was and came to WIZO in 10th grade," recalls Iran Braverman, an 18-year-old graduate of the fashion design track. "I come from a religious home. The world of fashion, with its plunging necklines and short skirts, seemingly conflicts with the values of community in which I grew up. However, my family is particularly liberal and open-minded; they have supported my creativity and ideas throughout the journey and even including my final project - which included an outfit that doesn't leave much room for the imagination. I recently designed a dress for one of my teachers. She was so happy with the result that she asked me to design another outfit for her daughter. After that, I began getting requests for more custom designs. The word of mouth recommendations excite me; it's the realization of a dream that I've had since I was young but that I wouldn't have necessarily fulfilled without WIZO. My study track gave me knowledge, experience and recognition of my own strengths, creativity and abilities. Nobody can take away those things from me now. For graduation, my family bought me my own sewing machine and I happily foresee that I'll be busy creating clothing as part of my daily life."