While there are millions of things about Kakenya Center for Excellence that make me smile every day, one of the greatest joys for me has been to watch the girls graduate from KCE and continue into high school.
55 girls have spread their wings and left our nest!
They are succeeding academically, physically, and spiritually in high schools around Kenya. To witness this transition has been an extraordinary experience for me. I’m in awe of them all!
Our graduates, who are now part of our Network for Excellence program, were recently back on the KCE campus for 10 days of academic review, leadership training, and of course, fun. We provided a structured and nurturing environment where they could study and reconnect with old friends. The girls shared stories about their high school experiences with each another and with our 7th and 8th graders. In addition, they finished homework assignments and worked with tutors on weak subject areas.
Here is what some of the girls said when asked, “How did KCE help you prepare for high school?":
When asked about the Network for Excellence program, students replied:
Thanks to the concerted efforts of our trained staff and mentors, our girls are truly supported and continue to thrive. Navigating high school can be hard for anyone, but especially for girls who may be the first in their family to go to high school. We recognize this challenge and are committed to providing extra support and guidance to these girls throughout their high school education.
Thank you for your support! Have a wonderful summer!
The Kakenya Center for Excellence campus is located in Enoosaen, a Maasai village of about 10,000 people located 250 miles west of Nairobi. In 2009, on land donated by community elders, we built our two-story classroom that became the anchor for our first class of 32 students. Today, with 183 girls enrolled at KCE, our campus has become a foundation in the community. We are not only changing the lives of the 183 girls that live on our campus, but are changing the social norms around educating girls in Enoosaen; and challenging our community members to reconsider harmful traditional practices such as FGM and early marriage that endanger the lives of their daughters.
Living on campus is a tremendous benefit to our girls, which I cannot begin to emphasize enough. Our campus provides a safe space for girls to live and study. Living on campus gives the girls more hours to focus on schoolwork, greater access to teachers, and enables them to form lasting friendships with classmates. Perhaps most importantly, our girls have an overwhelming sense of pride about our school campus.
As our student enrollment and community involvement grows, we continue to dedicate energy and resources to our campus infrastructure. Recently the dorm walls were freshly painted inside and out, new mattresses were purchased, a local carpenter built additional classroom chairs and tables, our teachers moved into new housing, and we broke ground on another academic building. I'm proud to have new accommodations for teachers that provide every teacher with a private space on campus near our students.
On February 18th community leaders, parents, teachers and students held a groundbreaking ceremony on campus for the new classroom building which will house 3 classrooms and a library. We are excited about the new library, which will provide a dedicated space for our books and e-readers, and a quiet space for teachers and students.
While the structural foundations of our building continue to grow and strengthen, we continue to nurture the personal foundation of all our girls at KCE as well. Leadership building, health education and preservation of culture are integrated into our curriculum at all levels.
Thank you for your steadfast support as we continue to strengthen our foundations and cultivate community!
Six years ago, before so many caring people helped Kakenya Center for Excellence open its doors to educate girls in Southwestern Kenya, the future for girls in my village was bleak. Before KCE, girls as young as 8 or 9 were at risk of undergoing the painful rite of female genital mutilation (FGM). Young girls were being forced into early marriage, and any girl who might have actually started school would likely have been pulled away from education early, as her destiny of servitude, poverty and marginalization overtook any hopes and dreams she might have had.
Today, it is a vastly different and wonderful new story, thanks to so many kind people who have helped bring about change through education and leadership at Kakenya Center for Excellence.
Let me tell you about Nasieku, who came to KCE as a timid 10 year old. Nasieku’s parents were preparing her to undergo genital mutilation and, as was the norm in our village, to marry her off in exchange for livestock. When they heard about theKCE boarding school and our mission of excellence, education and empowerment for rural girls, they wanted to know more. Nasieku’s parents learned that they could enroll their daughter in this novel school dedicated to advancing the development of Africa through transformational educational strategies for girls.
Nasieku’s parents discovered that in order to enroll her in the KCE boarding school, they would need to agree, as must all KCE parents, to protect her from being genitally mutilated. Their decision to reject social norms and partner with us in Nasieku’s education has forever changed Naisieku’s life story.
It is worth noting that not one of our KCE girls has undergone the painful FGM procedure because all KCE parents must sign a letter of commitment in which they promise to protect their daughters from this life-limiting and illegal rite. Six years ago, when Nasieku came to KCE, she could not write or read, let alone leverage the skills and knowledge needed to protect herself. Today, she excels in her schoolwork and she understands her health and her legal rights. Most importantly, she dreams about her own future and of creating a better world for girls everywhere.
Nasieku’s story is inspiring, yet there is much work left to be done. Together we can help ensure that girls in rural Kenya and beyond are able to sidestep risks and realize their full promise as valued and respected individuals who have equal opportunity and ability to lead and engage their families, communities and the world.
From the bottom of my heart,
Please consider donating as generously as you can during this time and help us spread the word! Remember, all gifts made between now and December 31 will mean DOUBLE the amount to KCE and our girls! Thank you!
“We came, we learned, we bonded, we left energized for a new term. We look forward to the next camp!” --- Network for Excellence High School Student
This summer we had the privilege and honor of welcoming our first class of graduates back to our campus for a week of learning, mentoring and fun. My heart was filled with incredible joy as I watched these young women return to KCE beaming with self-confidence and strength. Our 7th and 8thgraders greeted their older sisters with open arms and enthusiasm. To say that everyone was excited for this reunion is an understatement! The week-long program, hosted during a school holiday, brought together 26 highschool students and 61 of our 7th and 8th graders for a week of academic review, leadership training, and of course, fun. Our Network for Excellence program is ensuring that KCE graduates have the support and resources they need to succeed in highschool and beyond.
For the high school girls, the camp provided a structured and nurturing environment where they could study and reconnect with their peers. The girls spent time sharing stories about their high school experiences, finishing homework assignments, studying, participating in leadership trainings, and tutoring the younger girls. Three trained tutors worked individually with students on their weak subject areas. We were thrilled to also have three university students providing workshops on topics such as goal setting, community service, career orientation and healthy teen relationships. These mentors - an engineering student, a public health graduate, and a pharmacy student – are amazing mentors for our girls.
Our 7th and 8th grade students received tutoring in core subjects and spent a great deal of time working with professionals on test taking strategies for the national exams they will take in November. Perhaps the highlight for our 7th and 8th graders was the opportunity to meet informally in small groups each day with the high school girls and hear their stories about high school, gaining insight into the rigors and expectations that high school will bring.
As I watch our students grow and mature, I know that our organization must grow and mature as well. I’m forever grateful to the dedicated staff on campus that meets our students’ daily needs with professionalism and kindness. I am deeply committed to ensuring that KCE has the leadership capacity and solid infrastructure in place to deliver on our mission and remain strong and sustainable over time. To that end, I am thrilled to introduce our new team in Kenya: Hillary Omala, Executive Director; Wilkista Akinyi, Program Officer; and Eunice Mpilei, Finance and Administration Officer.
Thank you for enabling our girls to have these opportunities for academic growth and continued fellowship.
“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.
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