When I first heard that Secretary Clinton was considering a visit to our English Access Microscholarship Program in the West Bank, I found it impossible to suppress a cheer. I have loved working with the Access students and teachers during my three years here, and I was thrilled that we would be able to “show-off” this gem of a program to Secretary Clinton.
When the Secretary arrived at the offices of AMIDEAST, the nongovernmental organization which implements the program here on behalf of the Department of State, the Director and his deputies were clearly all a bit nervous as they greeted her. Their pride in the program, though, quickly supplanted any nervous tension, as they told her about the Access program they have implemented for over 3,800 students in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza since 2004. As they led her toward the room where 15 Access students and 3 teachers were gathered, we could hear the lesson for the day on-going. In honor of Women’s History Month, the students were learning about legendary astronaut and science educator Sally Ride. As Secretary Clinton entered the room, all eyes shifted from Wafa, their teacher, who excitedly introduced the Secretary. I felt the students’ excitement and felt proud that our Secretary of State was placing a priority on this English language program for disadvantaged Palestinian youth.
After 20 minutes with the students -- during which the Secretary observed the lesson, added her own insights to the topic at hand, discussed the worldwide Access program and what it means for students in more than 55 countries around the world, and shared thoughts on U.S. efforts to assist Palestinians in Gaza -- Secretary Clinton left the classroom to make short remarks to the press. She announced that given how impressive the Access students are, she would allocate additional funding to support Palestinian students as they pursue their educational goals! The staff and students of Access and all of us from the Consulate General could not have been more thrilled!