School Scholarships for 10 Young Kenyan Women

by Spark
Group of happy Akili Dada scholars
Group of happy Akili Dada scholars

On Monday, January 30th, the White House honored Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg as one of fourteen Champions of Change who are leaders in American Diaspora communities with roots in the Horn of Africa. These leaders are helping to build stronger neighborhoods in communities across the country, and are working to mobilize networks across borders to address global challenges. The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative and highlights Champions from various sectors, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs. You can read the full press release on Akili Dada's blog or watch Wanjiru speaking at the event.

Here's an excerpt from Wanjiru's blog post on the White House Champions of Change blog, talking about some of the incredible young women in whom Akili Dada invests and who are being nurtured to become the next generation of African women leaders:

"We invest in young women like Faith, one of Africa’s new generation of dazzling young social entrepreneurs and co-founder of Started by a group of young women in high school, the innovative online platform allows high school students from across Kenya to connect, exchange ideas, and organize community service activities, mentoring, and outreach events in communities around the country.

We are also investing in Gloria, the daughter of casual laborers who survived Kenya's gory post-election violence after watching her baby brother burned alive in their meager home. She has twice emerged among the country's top students and is now thriving on a full scholarship to medical school. Displaying a resilience rare in one so young she writes, "I dream day and night of how I am going to transform my community, society and country at large. I want to make a difference and Akili Dada has empowered me to do just that."

Akili Dada also intervened in the lives of Sharon and Winnie when lack of school fees had them on the verge of dropping out of the top-ranked high schools in the country. Both are now thriving on full scholarships at some of the best universities in the United States and are active members of their new American communities.  Describing her experience mentoring girls at a local high school Sharon writes, “every time I spend time with girls at Poughkeepsie high school I take pride in trying to show them that being poor does not necessarily mean [being] undignified. I know this because everyone in Akili Dada has modeled it to me.”

High school alumna Gloria interns for Akili Dada
High school alumna Gloria interns for Akili Dada
Scholar presenting at Akili Dada conference
Scholar presenting at Akili Dada conference
Akili Dada mentor with scholar
Akili Dada mentor with scholar
Wanjiru (2nd from right) honored at White House
Wanjiru (2nd from right) honored at White House


Akili Dada scholars emerged among Kenya’s top 1% of high school students taking the 2010 high school leaving exam, the KCSE.  Both Gloria and Neady earned straight As and now join the ranks of Akili Dada high school alumnae, 100% of whom have earned full scholarships to universities.

Winnie, another of our high school alumna, has secured two full scholarships to Whitman College and the University of Pennsylvania. She has decided to become Akili Dada’s first representative to the Ivy League and will start at U Penn in the fall!
The Akili Dada model works. Our scholars are the head of the student bodies at two of our three partner schools, as well as, amongst the leadership at the University of Nairobi. Read more about how we are changing lives for the better. 
Check out these updates from Akili Dada:
  • In May 2010, Akili Dada won the coveted Marketplace of Ideas competition from the United Nations emerging as one of “the world’s most exciting and innovative but lesser known civil society projects.” The award by the UN Alliance of Civilizations was aimed at showcasing “projects which do not already have firmly established links with the UN system, or have yet to be truly ‘discovered’ by the international community."
  • Since our inception in 2005 we have raised over $100,000 to support Kenya's brightest young women. We have achieved all this with a venerable force comprised entirely of volunteers. 
  • As of 2010, we have graduated 9 alumnae who have ALL earned full scholarships to universities around the world!
  • We are transforming the way our partner high schools do business by demonstrating the beneficial impact of combining rigorous academics with personalized mentoring and leadership training.  Some of our partner schools have began to adopt the Akili Dada model.

Here's How We Did It:

  • Through our vibrant mentoring program we are mobilizing a venerable cohort of professional African women to make personal connections and investments in the next generation of African women leaders.  Participating in the Akili Dada community further provides invaluable resources for our mentors including professional networking and lifelong learning through regular mentor-only events.
  • We are MUCH more than a scholarship organization. We not only provide brilliant girls from impoverished families with access to the top quality high school education, ours integrated approach addresses the diversity of challenges that adolescent girls face on the journey to adulthood.  
  • The Akili Dada community of scholars, mentors, and alumnae is a diverse inter-generational, and inter-ethnic sisterhood of women who represent Africa's exciting future.  
  • We are committed to fiscal responsibility and only offer a new scholarship after we have raised 100% of the funds needed to support the student for the entire duration of their secondary school education!  Our lean operations on two continents rely heavily on the support of our enthusiastic volunteers and our embrace of technology.
  • Our integrated yet decentralized operations on the ground in two continents is redefining the concepts of 'local' and 'grassroots' for the 21st century. Rather than bemoaning globalization, we are embracing technology and transforming the nature of transnational activism for social change.

Please visit Akili Dada's website to learn more.


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Organization Information


Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Shannon Farley
Executive Director
San Francisco, CA United States

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