TAU undergrad Kochava Pavlov always loved learning, but for many years she didn’t believe that she would be part of the academic world because she wouldn’t be able to afford it or wouldn’t qualify.
Pavlov, 25, grew up in Jerusalem in challenging family circumstances. At age 10, social services placed her in Israel’s boarding school system which houses youth who need a safe place to live. At 14, a friend’s family adopted her, providing her with vital support through her high school years.
“I used to doubt that I would even graduate high school let alone enter university,” she says.
Nonetheless, she excelled in high school—particularly in scientific disciplines—and went on to volunteer and work in roles teaching youth and children with special needs. With her standout academics and record of social leadership, she was one of 10 TAU students selected for the 2020-21 Schulich Leader Scholarships program. Now, finishing her second year at TAU studying math with a concentration in computer science, she has her sights set on making a difference for Israeli society.
“Winning the Scholarship showed me how much others believe in me and want me to succeed,” says Pavlov. “It reaffirmed my belief in what I can accomplish and is helping me pursue my dream of getting a university degree.”
The Schulich Leader Scholarships program accepts 55 students in total from five participating Israeli universities each year. It was established in 2012 by prominent Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, Seymour Schulich. The competitive program enables outstanding students – in Israel and Canada – to dedicate themselves to their demanding studies and aims to nurture the next global scientific leaders. The scholarships are granted based on merit, social leadership, and financial need.
The program supports the entire course of studies for an undergraduate degree in scientific and technological fields. Nearly 90 scholarships have been granted to TAU students since the program’s launch.
In spite of her challenging upbringing, Pavlov explains that several of her teachers were key to keeping her motivated early in her academic journey. At age 11, she began fencing, in which she excelled. In high school she faced a dilemma of whether to focus on qualifying for Israel’s National Team or schoolwork. Ultimately, she stuck with academics as she believed it would provide her with more opportunities.
“My teachers’ belief in me helped me to not fall [victim to my circumstances] during my childhood,” she says.
Pavlov credits the support throughout the years from the boarding school staff to social workers, her adopted family, and the Schulich Scholarship for helping her reach her current successes.
After high school, Pavlov joined Israel’s Sherut Leumi (“National Service”), a voluntary alternative to military duty, where she discovered her passion for working with children with special needs.
After finishing her year of national service at age 19, she tutored a child on the autism spectrum for two years. Then, after a few months volunteering and traveling in Africa, she returned to Israel and was accepted to TAU.
“Ultimately, my dream is to combine my abilities and academic knowledge of math and computer science with my love for helping kids, perhaps by working at an NGO or a school,” she says. “I hope to pay forward the support I’ve received and help others who come from hard backgrounds or struggle with uncertainty.”
She adds that part of her ambition is to empower others who come from unconventional backgrounds to realize their potential to succeed.
“When you come from a hard family life, something causes you to think you might not succeed in the way that people from other backgrounds do,” she says. “I want to show others that it is possible to follow their dreams.”
– By Julie Steigerwald