On October 20, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) celebrated 21 years of IMPACT!, an elite program that provides college scholarships to IDF veterans, as they welcomed 1,000+ former combat soldiers into the class of 2022-2023.
Held at Tel Aviv University, the event featured dignitaries, supporters, and program graduates who wished new students success in the road ahead.
The event featured the IDF Chief of Staff, Ltץ General Aviv Kochavi, who described the unique training and support the IDF provides to its soldiers and how it prepares them for success in their lives after service.
“Your army service laid the groundwork…you have learned self-discipline, teamwork, functioning under pressure, decision-making, how to adjustת and what it means to be warrior. These important lessons taught for free in Israel have a hefty price tag at top universities in the U.S.,” he said.
To new IMPACT! recipients, he said, “We have given you the foundational skills needed for success…now go and make your impact!”
Other speakers at the event included IMPACT! Co-Chairman Mr. Harry Gross from the U.S., and Co-Chairman Major General (Ret.) Avi Mizrahi from Israel. New IMPACT! recipient, Nati Yair, spoke on behalf of all new students, followed by a surprise wedding proposal to his girlfriend on the stage. (She said yes!). IMPACT! graduate Chen Lugasi announced a scholarship donation, and another surprise was in store as her donors, Nicky and Denis Ziman, presented the scholarship to her sister, a new IMPACT! recipient. Nily Falic and Melanie Bronfman were among the guests at the event.
“It has been a dream to run this transformational program for 21 years,” said Orna Pesach, executive director of the IMPACT! program. “The lives changed, and impact made on Israel society, is immeasurable.”
A touching addition to the evening was a performance by the IDF musical ensemble 'Gdolim Be'madim' - all of whom are soldiers with special needs – who sang a favorite tune of the Chief of Staff, “Biglal Ha'ruach" (“Because of the spirit”).
FIDF’s four-year scholarships are given to former combat soldiers from lower socio-economic backgrounds, enabling them to achieve their dreams of higher education. This one-of-a-kind program also provides funds to cover soldiers’ living expenses while they study and gives them the unique benefit of direct contact with their FIDF sponsors.
Since the program’s founding in 2002, FIDF has sponsored IDF veterans from 71 countries of origin. Over 92% of IMPACT! recipients graduate successfully compared to the Israeli national average of 70-81% graduation rate. With the success of the program, some 19,300 students and alumni are represented in nearly every field, and dozens are now donors themselves.
In addition, each scholarship recipient completes 130 hours of community service during each year of their scholarship as a way to give back and help others. Since the inception of the program, IMPACT! students have volunteered over 7 million hours of community service, making it the #1 scholarship program in providing community service in Israel. .