Think Tank, O.M.M.M Lab, and the Learning Zone

Imagine Scholar’s progressive curriculum is built around 3 key courses: Think Tank, O.M.M.M Lab, and the Learning Zone. Hear more about how our creative classroom encourages deep learning from one of our students, Yale Young Global Scholar alumni and African Leadership Academy student, Samkelisiwe. 

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” At the end of last year we started planning for how we could change the structure of our classes for the new year in order to be more productive in our work. Moreover, these changes allow for a flow between the material learned in what we call the Think Tank, O.M.M.M Lab and Learning Zone.

Think Tank

Think Tank classes are meant to help students develop confidence in their ideas, acquire leadership skills and understand how thinking occurs. From grade 9-11, each grade has a different essential question, which our student body forms as a group to explore for the rest of the year. These essential questions are meant to serve as a guide for students’ growth. When asked about the aim of think tank, Megan (Imagine Scholar facilitator) responded,

“Think tank allows students to find a sense of belonging while also teaching them how to lead by generating ideas and asking questions.”

O.M.M.M. Lab

O.M.M.M. Lab, which stands for Open Minded Meaning Makers, takes the ideas learned in Think Tank and dives deeper using different mediums. In these sessions, students are empowered to take their ideas from abstract to concrete, with the goal of making an impact.

“O.M.M.M. Lab gives students a voice to share their ideas and be able to take charge of the sessions instead of facilitators being the ones who run the classes.”

Says Megan O’Neil, the facilitator for the Communications class that formed the bedrock of O.M.M.M. Lab. The lab helps foster verbal leadership skills and builds students’ confidence in their ability to communicate with their peers or even in front of strangers.

Learning Zone

The Learning Zone has gone through many iterations as the Scholars’ learning styles have evolved. The main focus of Learning zone is to for students to learn how to learn, and more importantly to be independent in their learning.

During the week the students focus on Mathematics and Life Sciences with John, a resident academics facilitator, and on the weekends they work on Physical Sciences. In these sessions, the students do braindumps, whereby they write down what they learned during the previous class as a process of retrieval. Then they learn about strategies on how to learn. The last part of class is spent asking questions on a topic that they did not understand and/or working one-on-one with John for extra assistance.

Learning zone uses traditional school curriculum as a pace-setter so that students do not fall behind with their work. Students are also encouraged to gather in small pods to discuss any struggles or goals that they are working towards achieving with their peers. Overall, Learning zone provides academic support according to each individual student’s needs.

Author: Samkelisiwe Chissano

Imagine Scholar Intern, Andrew is a UNITE 2030 Finalist

International Development Intern, Andrew Senese participated in UNITE 2030, a global, virtual social innovation hackathon.

72 people, 57 countries, and some of the world’s most pressing issues – that was the formula for UNITE 2030. The event, a 48-hour virtual “hackathon” centered around the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, brought young world-changers from around the globe together with the purpose of creating innovative solutions to a number of high-priority problems outlined in the 2030 Agenda. The participants, who were separated into 17 different teams, were presented with an issue and allotted two days to collaboratively develop a business or product that would serve as a successful remedy. To assist their efforts, short workshops were held throughout the event, designed to reinforce key skills and concepts relevant to the project at hand. Towards the close of the event, finalists were selected and given an opportunity to pitch their ideas, with the winning team receiving an invitation to put their plan into action during the year-long, virtually-facilitated Youth Delegate Programme.

Comprised of representatives from India, Russia, Gambia, and the United States (well, technically South Africa), our four-person team spent the two days addressing the globally-relevant topic of child undernourishment, primarily during the first 1,000 days of life. Inadequate access to proper nutrition during this time span can produce life-long health consequences and drastically inhibit a child’s cognitive development. In other words, children who are subject to malnutrition that early in life are stripped of the possibility of living up to their full potential. Seeing as 50% of the world’s undernourished children are located in India, our team decided to focus our efforts in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s most severely impoverished areas.

To summarize our business plan, which was developed in full over the 48 hours, our organization – 1,000 Days of Life – provided a multi-faceted solution to this epidemic by confronting the primary contributing factors. For example, women in India are often deprived of any social or economic empowerment, which makes it difficult for them to obtain the knowledge and resources necessary for sustaining a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their children. Thus, in order to truly resolve the issue of child undernourishment in India, we knew we had to address the many culturally-specific factors that influence it.

Andrew’s proposed social enterprise to combat youth malnutrition made it to the final pitch round in UNITE 2030

In essence, our solution was to empower the women of Uttar Pradesh by equipping them with the information, land, and tools they need to form farming cooperatives through which they could first-handedly grow the food products they and their children require to flourish. These vitamin-rich products, be it produce, nuts, or grains, would then be packaged into “Baby Boxes” and “Mother Boxes” and distributed monthly amongst the women involved in the cooperative, while those not involved would be able to purchase them at an affordable price. Furthermore, the contents of the boxes would change according to the child’s age in order to best accommodate the developmental process. To increase the capabilities of our social enterprise, we also decided to allow individuals from across the globe to “sponsor” the production of a baby/mother box via a small monthly contribution. This additional source of revenue would permit us to regularly expand production, facilities, and resources, while also helping to keep the cost of the boxes low.

Our business idea landed us in the final round, where we ended up rounding out the top 5 teams. However, I think I speak for everyone when I say that I left feeling like a winner. Though the two days were a bit (extremely) chaotic, I was amazed with what my team and I were able to accomplish. In just 48 hours, we went from a blank page to a full-blown business plan, from being familiar with a topic to knowing its every facet, from total strangers to a tightknit group of friends, and from leaders in our communities to leaders in a global fight for change and justice.

Author: International Development Intern, Andrew Senese

International Development Intern, Andrew Attends the Youth Assembly at the United Nations

International Development Intern, Andrew Senese represents Imagine Scholar at the prestigious Friendship Ambassadors Foundation 2018 Winter Youth Assembly held at the iconic United Nations General Assembly hall.

Author: Andrew Senese (2017-2018 International Development Intern)

“When I began my internship with Imagine Scholar, I was beyond excited to help such an amazing organization continue on their pathway to success. However, my relationship with I.S. proved almost immediately to be symbiotic, granting me opportunities like this to continue developing on a personal and professional level. Now, together, Imagine Scholar and I will continue to change the world one day at a time.”

If we’re being honest, I never would’ve imagined myself sitting in a conference room at the UN Headquarters, surrounded by 1,000 of the most inspirational young leaders from across the globe. That is until I found myself in that exact position during the 2018 Winter Youth Assembly.

This 3-day event focused on the themes of innovation and collaboration provided meaningful insight into some of the world’s most pressing issues. What’s more, it equipped attendees with an array of information and resources vital to combating these issues. The workshops, led by members of some of the most reputable organizations in the non-profit field were characterized by interactivity and thought-provoking discussion.

The all-inclusive nature of the assembly was encouraging and fostered generative, empathetic discourse amongst delegates. The facilitators were extremely knowledgeable and open-minded, inviting everyone to speak their minds and share their energy, creativity, and ingenuity. Gathered around the United Nation’s 17 SDG’s and 2030 Agenda, those in attendance were there for one reason – to change the world, and to change it now – and being a part of that gave me an unparalleled feeling of inspirationI feel inspired to better myself, to advocate for a healthier, more sustainable world, and to keep pushing in the direction of change.

2017: Our Year in Review

“Imagine Scholar staff and students have come together in an effort to build one of the most robust and innovative education programs on the continent of Africa. We’ve made huge strides towards this goal in 2017; our students and alumni brimming with success stories.

The beauty of our organizational culture is that each students’ success lays the groundwork for future progress. Defining a sound moral compass that is steered by passion and places an emphasis on community and character development positions each graduate of our program to act as a force for positive change among their peers.”


-Corey Johnson, Executive Director 

This year’s successes are just the beginning. Thank you to all of our friends and supporters, donors and advocates who have helped us reach these important milestones:

Student acceptances and graduates:

6 Students were awarded the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship:

  • Mandisa will be attending the American University of Beirut in Lebanon
  • Tandzile will be attending United States International University in Kenya
  • Muzi will be attending the African Leadership University in Mauritius
  • Sandiso, Loveness, and Florence will be attending the African University in Zimbabwe

Special programs:

Student achievements:

  • Rodger’s solar power project was fully funded on #GivingTuesday! The implementation of this project will begin in 2018
  • Enky received all 7s (perfect score) on her high school matriculation exams
  • Allan and Sphiwe will be representing Imagine Scholar at the National Chess Championships
  • Nokwanda finished 2nd place in the Eskom National Science Competition

Community action projects enacted:

  • Phila – created app call ‘Anxiety Slayer’ to help teens overcome test anxiety
  • Lucky – podcast to share IS knowledge with other teens in Nkomazi
  • Nosipho – 2 reading clubs for grade 8 students
  • Carol – improv group
  • Nomcebo – training young girls to sew and make own clothes
  • Shadrack – mentorship program for primary school students around environmentalism
  • Glen – program to help grade 8s explore passions
  • Innocent – created website to assist others with communication
  • Chawe – created mini-documentary to capture IS story
  • Jeanet – chess critical thinking club for grade 8 students

We sincerely thank and appreciate everyone who has been a part of our journey in 2017 and those who continue to support our mission into 2018. We look forward to an even bigger and brighter year to come!

Portia’s Daily Routine

Inspired by My Morning Routine, we are showcasing the routines of our extraordinary students. 

Portia’s daily routine:

1) What time do you get up in the morning? Do you use an alarm? Do you hit snooze?

I usually get up at 7 for an 8 o’clock class. I don’t use an alarm all the time. If it happens that I have it on, I snooze it all the time.

2) What is the first thing you do every day?

Usually, I spend 10 minutes in bed while awake, and think about things I have to get done that day.

3) Tell us about your morning routine before leaving the house

I always make sure that every morning I do 50 jumping jacks before taking a shower. It always gets me ready for the day. If I have time after getting ready I eat breakfast, if not I eat a fruit on my way to class.

4) What time do you leave for school? 

I leave 10 minutes before class because the campus is only 5 to 7 minutes away.

5) What time do you leave school? What happens then?

I finish most of my classes before or at 1 o’clock.  I immediately go back to res and get lunch. After having lunch, I head straight to my room to take a nap and wake up at 5 o’clock and take a shower. Afterwards, I make dinner and get my study material ready to study. I don’t usually study during the day because I always feel tired, and use it as time to process what I learned that day.

6) What time do you head to Imagine Scholar? 

I usually go there when I have finished my chores for the day.

7) While at IS, what takes up most of your time? What are you most focused on?

I usually take part in classes when I do not have anything pressing to do. I sometimes make a plan for the semester ahead, evaluating my performance for the previous semester, and how do I plan to improve. I also hang out with everyone or read books.

8) Where do you go after IS and how do you spend your time?

I always go home and spent time watching TV and talk to my siblings. I also help them with school work if need be.

9) When do you have dinner and spend time with your family or friends?

Usually at 7 pm, and I spend time with my family and friends during the weekends or on days when I did not go to Imagine scholar.

10) What time do you go to bed?

At 9:30 pm when I am home, but at school, I sleep at 11:30.



Norman’s Daily Routine

Inspired by My Morning Routine, we are showcasing the routines of our extraordinary students. 

Norman’s daily routine:

1) What time do you get up in the morning? Do you use an alarm? Do you hit snooze?

Usually, around 6:30 if I have 7:30 classes or I have an exam, assignment or have to be somewhere. Otherwise, it’ll be around 7:00. Yeah, I set alarm on my phone. Honestly, I hit it more than once most times.

2) What is the first thing you do every day?

Check my phone for messages.

3) Tell us about your morning routine before leaving the house

I wake up, Go for a 20 min jog, have a shower, have breakfast, check school emails and to do’s list and then leave.

4) What time do you leave for school?

15 min before my class, it takes 12 min to walk to campus.

5) What time do you leave school? What happens then?

Varies on what time is my last class. Mostly I leave at 15:00, get to where I stay, take a nap/chill and listen to music/ hang out with friends, go to soccer practice at 17: 30-return at 19:30, Shower, then do next day’s todo’s list, schoolwork afterward.

6) What time do you head to Imagine Scholar? 

Anytime, When I’m home I prefer coming in in the afternoons.

7) While at IS, what takes up most of your time? What are you most focused on?

It depends on what I have to work on. There’s a time when I come in to join class or workshops then there are times when I come into work on personal projects.

8) Where do you go after IS and how do you spend your time?

Again it depends on what I had planned for that day, be it visiting and hanging out with friends, or doing personal stuff.

9) When do you have dinner and spend time with your family or friends?

I don’t have dinner with family, I just eat when I get home. Unless my friend is there with me then we’ll probably have dinner together when we get home (Just anytime after the process of cooking)

10) What time do you go to bed?

If I plan to sleep early it’s usually at 22:00. Otherwise, I sleep anytime when I finish whatever it is that I have to do. There are times when I slept around 3 am or 4 am due to assignments, projects with friends or personal projects.