The WISE Awards


Ms Heleen Terwijn

Position: IMC Weekend School
Country: Netherlands

In 1998, Heleen Terwijn, a Dutch psychologist/psychotherapist as part of a university research study in immigrant communities in Amsterdam, found alarmingly high depression rates, a lack of future orientation, and disaffection with school among pre-teens in these communities. Profoundly impacted by what she found, Terwijn created a program to capitalize on the natural enthusiasm of children and founded the internationally acclaimed IMC Weekend School.

Each Saturday and Sunday at the Weekend School — in 10 schools in the Netherlands, 3 in Belgium and 1 in Hong Kong — volunteer guest teachers — all professionals — teach courses in, among others, journalism, entrepreneurship, law, medicine, and philosophy to youth ages 10-14. Upon graduation from this three-year program, students join an alumni program in which they are helped to pursue their careers and mentor and volunteer at the Weekend School. Research demonstrates that the Weekend School fosters future perspectives, persistence in school, a sense of belonging to society, and the attitude of giving back to society. So successful has its approach been that it is now being adopted in the formal Dutch education system. In addition, IMC Weekend School strives towards building a global network of Weekend Schools.