[Editor's note: The Student Sponsorship Programme was founded by Africa.com's chairman and CEO, Teresa Clarke, in 2000.]Pursue your dreams. We’ve all heard this mantra and it is a worthy one. One of the best decisions I ever made was to pursue mine. I wanted to become a professional golfer and compete on the world tour. With much dedication I managed to do just that. Then, thankfully, I managed to fail miserably. In 2009, I played the tournament that turned out to be my last. I had huge expectations. I trained really hard. And then I choked on the last day. Choked horribly, in fact. That afternoon, I realised I had reached a plateau and had three options: work on my golf for a couple of years and chase that elusive breakthrough (it is a sport in which improvement comes with marginal gains over time); become a coach (not really of interest; I was already doing it on the side); or switch careers again. Almost six months later, and after three years out of the job market, I landed in Madrid to pursue my MBA.
At some point during my first few months on campus two of my classmates told me about a fellowship programme called Emzingo that brings MBAs to South Africa. There are moments in life when fate plays a hand. Without really knowing what I was applying for, I wrote a cover letter and sent my CV to them. Then, nine months into my MBA, I was selected as one of 13 students to take part in a social impact consultancy project in Johannesburg.
With two colleagues, I was assigned to work at an NGO called Student Sponsorship Programme (SSP). SSP selects poor, mainly black students who are academically bright to continue their education in Johannesburg’s best private and public high schools. We were to help with a structural reorganisation, develop a new branding strategy and to implement an alumni programme. This, it was hoped, would make the student-selection process more efficient, increase donations and help SSP to continue supporting students once they had left the programme.