Stonington event to benefit organization that helps South African students

Stonington — When Megan O’Neill of Old Lyme was attending Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, she had an opportunity to do a monthlong internship in a poor, rural region of South Africa.

There she worked with an after-school educational mentorship program called Imagine Scholar that provides academic assistance, instruction in critical thinking and leadership for students in sixth through 12th grades and assists them in applying for college scholarships.

“I was completely captivated with the students and the mission,” she said.

Although she had to come back to the United States to graduate, she returned to South Africa a short time later and spent four years working there for Imagine Scholar. The 26-year-old O’Neill now is living in Stonington and continues to work for Imagine Scholar, doing fundraising and strategic marketing.

On July 28 from 4 to 7 p.m., a fundraising event for the organization will be held at Stone Acres Farm, 393 North Main St., with all of the proceeds going to Imagine Scholar, a nonprofit organization. The event will include beer tasting from more than 10 local craft breweries, Woodfellas wood-fired pizza, live music and a silent auction. Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased in advance at bit.ly/ISStoneAcres.

O’Neill, who graduated from Old Lyme High School, said the region of Nkomazi, in the country’s northeast corner, also has a HIV infection rate of 40 percent and a higher education rate of just 7 percent. Families were forcefully relocated there during apartheid and in the 1980s, refugees fleeing civil war in neighboring Mozambique arrived.

She said the students in the program attend public school each day and then come to Imagine Scholar for an additional 25 hours a week.

“The goal is to create a group of great 25-year-olds who will come back to the community in the future and make positive change,” she said.

O’Neill added that the organization offers full college scholarships to students and the first recipient of one will graduate this year.

j.wojtas@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version corrects the type of assistance Imagine Scholar provides students when it comes to college scholarships.

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