Publication date: 26/03/2021
Dear Friends and Alumni,
Keren Hanan Aynor thanks you for your ongoing partnership and wishes you and your family a Happy Passover – much joy, renewal, fulfilment and good health!
“Someone believes in me and wants me to succeed”Serkalem Akal, age 27, Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology
2021 recipient of the Yona Bogale (z”l) scholarship generously donated by
Mrs. Susan Pollack & Mr. Gil Kulik
In my conversation with Serkalem, I am struck by her bravery, humility and maturity. She is bright, motivated and committed to her studies and without a doubt will succeed at them!
At eleven years of age, she made Aliyah from Ethiopia with her mother and siblings. One of her sisters joined the family in Israel six months later and one sister and her family remain in Ethiopian to this day.
She recalls her time at the absorption centre in Be’er Sheva with fond memories and a sense of excitement. After leaving the protected environment of the centre, the family moved to Bat Yam, a central Israeli town two years later. This was a challenging time for her and the family and she describes the new found daily struggles of becoming more independent and assisting her mother with medical insurance, daily tasks and the desire to integrate more fully.
Serkalem attended a local school and was the only Ethiopian Israeli there. She learned Hebrew quickly and felt confident as a new student, even though she describes the academic level as above average.
When she speaks of those years, she sounds nostalgic and reminisces about being a strong student and actively seeking out learning environments where she was often the only student of Ethiopian descent.
She concentrated mostly on her studies and at the time, was not looking for a social circle.
In ninth grade, she decided to move to a new school where there was a larger population of Ethiopian Israeli students and made new friends easily. In tenth grade, she moved schools yet again to Givat Washington which had a reputation for being stricter and upholding high academic successes. Her schooling was paramount and she wanted to succeed on her matriculation exams.
She faired all these transitions with ease and maintained a high academic average. She became more independent and mature. She enrolled in a psychology major in high school and claims that is the moment she became hooked on “the study of the soul”.
Upon graduation, she began her national service working with new immigrants in the nearby city of Holon. She felt she didn’t have this opportunity as a young child and wanted to be there for other new immigrants to provide guidance and assistance in their new homes. Her service also involved work with the parents and she excelled in that role as mediator as well.
In her second year of service, she worked with deaf children in a first grade classroom in Tel Aviv.
Prior to beginning her Bachelor’s degree, Serkalem wrote her psychometric exam and worked for two years in an effort to consolidate her decision about what to study at University. Recalling her love for psychology in high school, she began her degree at the Academic College of Tel Aviv Yaffo and enjoyed her studies very much. “It was like learning a new language” she claims, relating both to studying at the academic level and her psychology major.
Challenges abound and she had to work harder to achieve the success she was used to in her younger years. She was one of only two Ethiopian Israelis in the program and wanted to prove she could compete. She did so with grace and confidence and achieved excellent grades. She spoke to me of the importance of training more psychologists and psychiatrists in the Ethiopian Israeli community and the cultural sensitivities required in order to reach the clients.
She spoke with a sense of drive, ambition and compassion and it is clear to anyone listening that she was born for this field of work. She is clearly committed to the process and won’t let anything stand in her way of success. Being accepted into her Master’s degree program was rife with challenges and she is proud to be completing her first year. “This has been a journey…” she shared with me, “an important process of being committed to what’s important to me.”
Her admiration for the education program at Keren Aynor and the appreciation for her generous scholarship and its donors is palpable. “Being a part of this program feels like family! Someone believes in me and wants me to succeed. It is an honour and I will make you proud.”
We, at Keren Aynor, have every confidence that is so. As we told Serkalem last August when she began this degree, we are here every step of the way as she navigates her Master’s degree – providing an ear to listen, support, guidance and any accompaniment she might need!