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Alumnus uses POISE to support education in Uganda

July 29, 2011

It was through teaching a high school world history class in Bay St. Louis, Miss., that Loyola University New Orleans alumnus Dawson McCall ’04 first became inspired to help marginalized students and schools in Uganda.

In 2007, McCall and his students at St. Stanislaus High School were studying the colonization of Africa and were focusing on the relationship between Great Britain and its African colonies during the early 1900s. After looking at the history, the class took some time to discuss the current situation in several East African countries, including Uganda.

“After discussing the Ugandan civil war and the poverty that it has created there, my students wanted to do a fundraiser to support young people in Uganda who have been affected by the war,” says McCall. “The initial goal was to raise $50,000 for the construction of a permanent school building for a tutoring program named Project Uplift, located in Kampala, Uganda, which was working on establishing itself as an official school.”

After going to Uganda with some of his students in the summer of 2007, McCall realized that efforts to support Project Uplift were just the tip of the iceberg.

“As we learned more about the school, its students and its needs, it was obvious that teacher salaries, operational expenses and other recurring costs would be needed if Project Uplift was going to succeed. Plainly, the students, teachers and administrators of Project Uplift had the motivation, knowledge and dedication to put a school together. What they lacked was the funding,” said McCall.

The result of that fateful visit was the creation of POISE, a nonprofit foundation with a mission to help marginalized students who would not otherwise be able to pursue their educational aspirations. This collaboration between McCall, his sister, Lorraine Anton, and Ken France, a fellow teacher at St. Stanislaus, provides financial assistance to Project Uplift and two other organizations, the Ugandan Women’s Program and the POISE Tuition Assistance Program. POISE is currently Project Uplift’s sole form of financial support. The Ugandan Women’s Program supports a household of seven women with the purpose of helping them climb up the educational ladder as far they aspire to go.

McCall said the Jesuit mission of social justice was a definite influencer in deciding to establish POISE.

“The social awareness fostered on (Loyola’s) campus while I was a student there, along with the culture of emphasizing social justice that is engendered across the campus, both in and out of the classroom, definitely shaped my views of the world,” says McCall. “I was also heavily influenced by the charisma of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart while at Stanislaus, which holds that all students are valuable and have something to contribute to the world. These things, the emphasis on social justice and the value of the individual student, is the basis for our belief at POISE that all people deserve the right to an education.”

Since POISE’s creation four years ago, the Project Uplift school building has been completed and tuition assistance is being provided to graduates on the basis of need and university admission. Additionally, Project Uplift has grown from a tutoring program of around 20 students to a fully registered and functional school with more than 100 students, 20 of whom live in the school’s dormitories which were built with POISE funding support.

“So far, including all of our fundraising efforts, both before the establishment of POISE and since, we have provided just under $100,000 in assistance to Project Uplift and its students in various ways, including school construction costs, operational expenses, tuition assistance, and living expenses for the women’s home.”

Three Project Uplift students have received university degrees with POISE support, while another six university students are slated to be under assistance from POISE in the 2011-12 school year. Plans to expand support are also being considered, specifically students in the Mississippi Delta and other regions and communities.

For more information, e-mail McCall at dawson@poisesupport.org or visit www.poisesupport.org.

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