Fall 2011

From a Kid on the Neighborhood Streets

to a Role Model for Neighborhood Kids: Golan Biton

Golan Biton

"The Open University is my life saver. I grew up in a very poor neighborhood. There was no one to guide me in my studies. Luckily, I enrolled at the Open University where angels did not let me fail. Today, thanks to my degree, I am the director of the local community center in the neighborhood where I grew up and I serve as a real role model for the kids here."

The following letter was received at the Open University's offices in Ra'anana:

"Hello, My name is Golan Biton. I am 32 years old and I graduated with a degree in social sciences and the humanities from the Open University. I am married to Reut, who has an undergraduate degree in psychology also from the Open University, and we are the parents of a one-year old boy, named Liron.

I was born in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Rehovot, a socio-economically distressed neighborhood.

I grew up in a family of 6 children. Unfortunately, I never finished high school and was really a lost kid, the kind of kid who would wander the streets at night with his friends until the wee hours of the morning. There was no one around to explain the importance of academic studies. Even when I finally did want to learn, I would fail my exams.

My Dream: A Bachelor's Degree

When I joined the army, I did so as part of a special project for soldiers who had not finished high school and suffered from difficult behavioral issues. In the army, I learned about the importance of an education. I couldn't converse with my fellow soldiers and I always felt alone and different.

Happily "God touched me" and I began to take some responsibility for my life. I enrolled in a program while in the army, to complete high school. And towards the end of my army service, I successfully completed my high school program. This taste of success gave me the appetite to continue my studies. I enrolled in an electronic practical engineering program, a difficult one, but after a lot of hard work, I completed it and was awarded a certificate in practical engineering.

However, my big dream was to get a Bachelor's degree from a university. Luckily, I enrolled at the Open University. Initially, this was very difficult for me. I failed again and again on my exams, but I did not give up. I worked hard. English was especially hard for me; initially I was assigned to the lowest level of English studies.

Thankfully, I met Sharon Goldsmith from the English Unit and she did not let me fail. She encouraged me to be retested by Ilana Ben-Ari. Sharon and Ilana are angels, and I will never forget how they helped and encouraged me.

Now I want to go on for my Master's Degree

I was diagnosed with learning disabilities. The department at the University which deals with learning disabilities came to my rescue. Once my problem was identified and diagnosed, my marks began to improve dramatically -- 80 and above. In the end I completed my degree with an average of 80, and in English, the subject that I had the most difficulty with, I earned a 90!

Today, thanks to my degree, I am the director of the community center where I grew up and I serve as a role model for the kids in the neighborhood.

Today I also lecture in the army to soldiers who come from similar backgrounds as mine. I also lecture to senior officers, explaining to them how important it is not to write off people like me but to approach them with understanding and support.

At this stage, I plan on enrolling in a Master's program, and to continue advancing up the ladder in Rehovot's community centers.

For me, the Open University is a holy place that saved my life. The Open University is a University of Life. I enjoyed every course, and I never missed a class. I had the privilege of learning from first class lecturers. Everyone always gave me an attentive ear. "

Sincerely yours,

Golan Biton