“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” - Maya Angelou
With the passing of Maya Angelou this May, I have been moved to write this update about the vital importance of mentors in our KCE community. Since our inception in 2009, mentorship has been a strong and integral tenet of our program.
Our teachers and staff have worked tirelessly to ensure that our students do well academically, emotionally, mentally and physically. In addition, KCE has developed partnerships with community members and organizations that motivate, inspire and engage our students to uncover their true potential and reach for their dreams.
Last August, KCE began a mentorship program with the Global Give Back Circle, an international non-profit mentoring program that pairs young disadvantaged students with mentors. Two amazing young college students from the University of Nairobi, Wilkista Akinyi and Vera Oreti, initiated the Kakenya Mentoring Program with Global Give Back Circle, bringing together students from several Kenyan universities and our KCE students. Throughout last year, all of our class 8 girls were paired with mentors from Kenyan universities. Through online letters, students gained insight into the rewards and challenges of college. Wilkista described the program’s vision this way: “We wanted to share with them more about high school and university life, we wanted to empower them to dream big and walk their dreams, we wanted to be their older sisters who have defied all odds and gained access to quality education. We wanted to help them understand the true meaning of growing to become global citizens who can develop their communities and beyond.”
In May 2014, our recent graduates returned to KCE for a two-day training program that was facilitated by Wilkista and the Global Give Back Circle women. Our graduates were happy to reunite on campus and to meet their mentors in person. Wilkista has stayed on this month to strengthen the mentorship program for our current 8th grade class and facilitate their upcoming field trip to Nairobi.
In the coming weeks, the high schools our graduates now attend will be hosting visiting days, and I am thrilled that many of our mentors will be traveling to visit their students during that time!
I cannot begin to emphasize the profound influence these mentors have had on our girls. These mentors are empowering our students to visualize a different future. Our girls are witnessing achievement and it is igniting their own passions.
Most importantly, their continued fellowship and guidance has said “I Believe In You” and for that, I am forever grateful.
The 2014 school year is off to a great start at Kakenya Center for Excellence!
Our new fourth grade class has settled into life at KCE, already standing taller and holding their heads up with confidence. This incoming group brings our total enrollment to 170 girls in grades 4 through 8, the biggest student body we have ever had!
In February, KCE Board and staff welcomed students, parents and community leaders onto campus for our annual distribution of textbooks and school supplies. Each student received their very own textbooks in all 6 core subject areas: Math, Science, Social Studies, English, Kiswahili and Religion; and teachers received guidebooks and resources to supplement their instruction. While it may seem like a small gesture, our book distribution is unique and significant in Enoosaen, as many of our neighboring schools share only a handful of books amongst an entire class. Our girls are keenly aware of this reality and treat their books with care and respect.
Last month 170 uniforms were distributed to an eager student body at the Kakenya Center for Excellence. Thanks to the support of donors such as you, all KCE students received leather shoes and socks, a skirt, two blouses, a sweater, a tie and athletic shorts and t-shirts.
Our uniforms give our girls a sense of community within the school and create an atmosphere of belonging. In addition, our uniforms provide the girls with the privilege and responsibility of representing the school, the student body and their teams throughout the wider community.
KCE currently has two competitive team sports, volleyball and soccer. Both teams are coached by KCE teachers and practice regularly after school. The teams compete against 42 other schools throughout the district.
In addition to team sports, KCE maintains an active and healthy student body through a daily fitness regimen. At the end of each academic day, the girls participate in a run followed by group stretching and games. Though the terrain is rough and sometimes muddy, the girls look forward to the end of the school day when they get to don their gym clothes and simply release all that energy and enthusiasm.
KCE girls are learning important life skills on the fields. Through athletics, they are building self-confidence and learning the rewards of patience, perseverance, good sportsmanship, discipline and teamwork.
The term has been busy as always, filled with dynamic learning experiences and new adventures and we are so thankful for your continued support!
Happy New Year! 2013 was a wonderful year at the Kakenya Center for Excellence. Your support of our school and education programs has forever changed the lives of our girls, their families and the community itself. We are enormously grateful to you for all you have helped to make happen for our girls this year!
We began 2013 by welcoming 33 new girls to the KCE family, bringing us to 155 girls in grades four to eight. Neipamei was one of these girls, and we want to share her story with you. She was only 9 years old when she lost both her parents to HIV/AIDS. She and her 11 orphaned siblings were split up among several relatives and families in the village. When one sister was married off at 15, Neipamei became afraid and sought refuge with a pastor. Then, in December, 2012, the pastor brought Neipamei to KCE on Enrollment Day. Since then, a new life of possibility and hope has opened up for Neipamei, now a KCE fifth-grader who loves social studies and mathematics and studies very hard. After losing her parents and experiencing fear and great risk, Neipamei sees a future of hope and dreams of becoming a doctor so she can “take care of sick people so that they don’t die.”
In 2013, we also had our first class of graudates! Twenty-three KCE eighth graders earned the Kenya Certificate of Primary School and are preparing to join high schools around the country this month. What a different life trajectory they now have thanks to the education that your support realized for each one of them!
This January, the Kakenya Center for Excellence welcomes another 32 girls to our school and we will carry out several transformative Health and Leadership Trainings. With your continued support, these girls will also avert many health risks and avoid early marriage.
Thanks to KCE and you, our girls will learn and grow and discover their dreams, and one-by-one they will emerge on wings of hope and opportunity—full of anticipation, resilience and knowledge—ready to make a difference in the world they are inheriting.
CNN announced its Top 10 Heroes for 2013 and I am extremely honored and humbled to be one of the ten. I cannot even begin to express what this award means to the girls in my community and the issues that we continue to eradicate in our society. Today CNN has elevated the voices of young girls who are forced to undergo female genital cutting and early marriages. These are girls who are yearning for a better future but are denied an education when they are so young. I know because I was one of them.
I am motivated every day by girls like Lynn and Angeline who were orphaned at a tender age of seven and ten, but who now will achieve their dreams because we have given them an opportunity. But there is still much work to be done. 14 million girls are married each year before they are 18 years old and 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital cutting. With your help, and that of people like you, we can put a end to these practices.
CNN is asking the public to select their "Hero of the Year", so I am asking you today to vote for me and the girls, to share this link on your Facebook and Twitter and to ask your family, friends and colleagues to do the same. While it is an honor to be among the top ten, which comes with $50,000 which we will put towards building more classrooms, being named the top winner would be the catalyst for us to help significantly more girls. The visibility that recognition would give to this issue, and the direct investments we could make with the $250,000 prize would ensure that we have transformed more girls into empowered individuals who will each make a difference in our world.
I want to thank CNN for believing in my dream and that of the many girls around the world. And I want to thank you, our supporters, for your continued support. Together we are changing the lives of girls in Kenya in a positive way.
I am grateful for your continual support and very thankful for your vote.
With warm regards,
Kakenya Ntaiya, PhD.
KCE is committed to enriching our girls' academic experiences with opportunities outside the classroom. For our 8th graders, who will soon leave our campus and move on to secondary schools around the country, these opportunities are especially important. This summer, all 19 of our 8th graders traveled to Nairobi to visit the cultural and historic sites of the Kenyan capital. This was the first time any of them had been to a big city! They visited the National Archives, Parliament, Nairobi's international airport, and Nairobi National Park. They were thrilled by all the new experiences, especially staying at a hotel with a full breakfast provided in the mornings -- nothing like their usual breakfast of millet porridge. They were able to see the diversity of city life, from the VIP section of Parliament to Kibera, Africa's largest urban slum. The trip was truly one of discovery and excitement.
Read what the girls had to say about this experience:
"The journey to the city was so enjoyable and we were all excited about the time we spent at Shalom House where we learned to use flush toilets and showers. The entire journey was very exciting and enjoyable and we will work hard so as to join those secondary schools in Nairobi." -- Shura
"We went to the airport. This was the most interesting part of the journey because we saw planes landing and taking off. I was so happy to see a very big airplane. I told myself that one day I'll be the one operating it." -- Peiyiai
"We saw very old animals in the animal orphanage and what seems funny is that the animals had different names such as Patrick. The animals also had their own houses that seemed better than those of people in some villages." -- Yiamat
"My dream is to be a neurologist and I believe that one day I will fly overseas and save lives of many. I promised myself to work hard since I wanted to be in such a place." -- Lepishoi
The 8th graders are diligently preparing to take their National Exams mid November. This national test, which is a cumulative assessment of all subjects learned in primary school, will determine what secondary schools the girls may apply to in Kenya. Our girls have been reading, writing and reviewing with our teachers extensively. To help our girls prepare, KCE welcomed 5 experts on campus to provide tips on how best to succeed on this important exam.
These 19 young women never cease to amaze us at KCE. Their spirit and enthusiasm create such a positive atmosphere throughout our campus and indeed throughout the community. Their dedication to one another and their commitment to reaching their goals is inspiring to the girls that are following in their footsteps.
Thank you for believing in our girls. Your continued support is creating a new generation of leaders in Kenya.
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