From City of God to the Holy Land

Ana Letícia Araújo

Brazilian student will apply TAU expertise in social innovation to empower youth in her impoverished hometown.

As a girl, TAU scholarship student Ana Letícia Araújo would accompany her mother from their favela in Rio de Janeiro to her job as a housekeeper in an affluent neighborhood. Her mother’s employer was an esteemed university professor, and Araújo marveled at how the professora and her children spoke English and travelled abroad to pursue their education. 

The experience planted the seed of ambition in Araújo to study for an academic degree. The odds were against her. Her neighborhood, called City of God, is a crime-ridden shantytown made infamous by a movie of the same name; she grew up among criminals small and large, drug dealers and other unsavory characters. “For a person who grew up like me to see beyond this is very hard,” she says.  

Moreover, she couldn’t afford tutoring or extra-curricular activities to feed her dream. 

After finishing public school, she was accepted to a state university. Yet, she couldn’t afford to pay tuition and support herself simultaneously, so she decided to work and save money—to be able to one day pursue higher education. Inspired by her mother’s boss, she remained resolute to study abroad, so she taught herself English, costly college prep courses being out of reach. 

Fifteen years later, she is a student in TAU International’s BA in Liberal Arts program, majoring in psychology, entrepreneurship and philosophy. Her ultimate goal: to return to her hometown and help children like her lead better lives.  

Social Entrepreneurship 

When Araújo was applying to universities, she initially looked in the US and Europe. After seeing an advertisement for TAU, though, she decided that it was the place for her because of its world-class reputation and focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. More practically, TAU offered her a scholarship, the deciding factor in her decision to enroll. 

“Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t be in Israel because I would not be able to afford the rent or tuition,” she says. Support from the Brazilian Friends of TAU Scholarship Fund and TAU  

 

International helps her “feel more relaxed to be studying, so I can focus on what matters.”  

Araújo says she is very happy to be at TAU, where she lives in the dorms. When it comes to academics, she values her instructors and the multidisciplinary curriculum. “I love the classes, especially those that help us develop critical thought and our own initiatives,” she adds.  

She has also adapted well to Tel Aviv: “I love the way things work here! The safety of the city is different for me.” 

Ana Letícia Araújo. (Photo: Moshe Bedarshi)

Ripple Effect 

As her first year at TAU comes to an end, Araújo remains focused on developing a social start-up she started planning in Brazil. Incorporating TAU’s multidisciplinary approach, she plans to teach orphans from her favela informal skills such as cooking, sports and music, to help them succeed in life. She says she brings added value as a native and intends to involve the residents as well. Combining this with the expertise in innovation and social entrepreneurship she is accruing at TAU, Araújo believes she can create something truly original—and effective. 

The opportunity will have a ripple effect on her community, she says. “I always believed that education can transform people and transform the world,” Araújo says.  

“To give a scholarship to someone is like to [plant] a tree that has roots and branches,” she continues.  

“The day I received my scholarship was a very important moment in my life. Maybe through me, other lives can be changed, too.” 

– By Melanie Takefman 

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