The Liberian Education Fund, a group made up largely of Belfast Area High School students that was founded in 2006, has worked toward helping youths in Liberia to get their education, one scholarship at a time.

Sept. 12 five members of LEF met with former Liberian Senator William V. S. Tubman Jr. at Bell the Cat in Belfast to learn more about Liberian history and about service opportunities available to students working with LEF. Tubman, who is the son of the late Liberian President William V. S. Tubman, spent the visit discussing life in the African country and addressed questions from LEF members.

Previous reports published in The Journal reach back to LEF’s roots, when it was founded in December 2006 by then-BAHS sophomore Kim Ouillette and Stan Stalla of Northport. At that time, Stalla was working in Liberia as an employee of the United States Agency for International Development. Ouillette and Stalla hatched the idea for LEF through their e-mail correspondence.

Stalla soon enlisted the assistance of his colleague Joe Hoover, a native Liberian, to select four students in need of educational assistance. The group of Liberian students soon grew to 12, and Hoover has since taken over management of the fund. Scholarships are awarded based on financial need and academic merit.

Obtaining an education is difficult for youths in Liberia, because of the long-standing instability and war throughout the country. The government does not currently support a free public school system, as teachers are not paid for their services and often do not show up for classes.

Students in these schools are without basic supplies like books and desks, making the country’s private high schools the only option for obtaining a good education. The cost of tuition, books and a uniform typically comes in at between $200 and $300 a year, making private school a financial impossibility for most Liberian families.

According to the LEF Web site, the scholarships have helped five Liberian students graduate from high school, and the fund continues to support an additional nine high school students.

On the LEF site, Hoover delivers his message about the importance of the organization, noting that the scholarships to each individual student can mean a better future for his entire country.

“With over 45 percent of the population of Liberia being illiterate and the youths being more than 50 percent of this population, we strongly believe that educating a child is educating a nation,” Hoover said.