Recap: January 2020 Meeting with Megan O’Neill

Dear Members,

On January 23, approximately 70 SECWAC members and guests gathered at the First Congregational Church in Old Lyme to hear Megan O’Neill speak on her work at Imagine Scholar in South Africa.  Using slides and video, Megan told us of the wonderful work being done by Imagine Scholar, an educational non-profit organization based in the Nkomazi region of South Africa. The organization’s innovative and sustainable approach to education is creating a meaningful impact in the local community and re-imagining education systems for rural, underserved communities. Through working with high-achieving, low-income secondary school students in the development of leadership, critical thinking, and community-mindedness, Imagine Scholar aims to build Africa’s next generation of change-makers.  Through videos, Megan introduced us to two of the students, one of whom is now at university in Idaho.  

Megan explained the challenges for young Black people in post-Apartheid South Africa, and the efforts of Imagine Scholar to build a community of leaders there and potentially farther afield.  She described a rigorous selection process for the limited number of spaces in the program, and the then even more rigorous after-school program that endeavors to prepare these young people for a changing future in Africa.  So far, Imagine Scholar has had three students selected for the prestigious African Leadership Academy (you may have seen its director Chris Bradford speak at SECWAC in 2017), 10 have attended the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, and 95% of Imagine Scholar graduates who attend university have been awarded full scholarships.

The presentation ended with a lively Q& A and was followed by a dinner in Megan’s honor at the Old Lyme Country Club.

Those of you wishing to follow up on Imagine Scholar, see

It was refreshing to hear from a young person (Megan graduated from Dickinson College in 2015!) so engaged in helping others in a distant land… though perhaps with globalization, social media, and the relative ease of global travel these days, places we thought of in the past as “distant” are no longer so.  It therefore behooves us to be more aware of what we can do to help our global neighbors, especially the youth of the world, as Imagine Scholar does. 

We hope to see you at the next SECWAC meeting on February 13 at Connecticut College, when Esam Boraey, a political activist in Egypt and a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, will speak on “The Development of Democracy in Egypt”.


Paul Nugent
Executive Director & Program Committee Chair
Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council


Mission Statement

The mission of the Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) is to foster an understanding of issues of foreign policy and international affairs by study, debate, and educational programming, primarily through a Speakers Series of 8 to 10 monthly meetings.