Maria (left) with sophomore student Lilian.
Name: Maria Catherine Kelly
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Education: BA in Anthropology from University of San Diego
Occupation: Full-time graduate student. Currently working on Masters in Teaching, International Relations and Social Sciences through University of San Diego.
What type of work are you doing at Daraja Academy?
My thesis is on student self-efficacy beliefs concerning perceived goals for the future. [Self-efficacy is "the belief in one's own ability to perform a task".] I will study student career and academic goals post transition from the academy. I will determine student behavior as it is perceived by the students, not by the administration, staff, or researcher.
How are you conducting your research?
Ten students have volunteered to be part of the project. They will go through a series of four interviews and reflection pieces. The first interview is focused on why they are interested in a specific goal instead of others. The second tries to discover their self-efficacy beliefs (their ability to achieve those goals). The third deals with their self regulatory behaviors (their way of getting to that goal). The last interview deals with control beliefs (who they believe is in charge of their success- why do they succeed/fail?). In addition, it will attempt to identify how certain programs at Daraja (like WISH class) are affecting the girls’ beliefs.
At the end there will be a “member check” where I go over my understanding of my data with the girls and I make sure that they agree with how I perceived their information.
What do you hope to get out of this project?
The desired outcome is to gain a better understanding of the girls’ beliefs in their capabilities. This will help the girls successfully plan for their lives upon graduation.
Hopefully, Daraja will get a better understanding of their students’ belief system. In addition they will be able to evaluate programs that are designed to have a positive effect on the girls self-efficacy.
How long does it take to write a thesis like this?
Relationship Development: 3 Months
Data Collection: 3 Months
Data Analysis: 2 Months
What’s your typical day like?
I try to spend as much time with the girls as possible, usually in a non-official environment. I observe the girl’s behavior. I also do lots of research on self efficacy, educational psychology and behavioral material. At this point, my time will be mostly taken up by interviews and transcribing data. I also work with the media club and WISH class.
What do you like to do for fun?
I am into non-human primate research. I am currently trying to put a proposal through to do Baboon socio-ecology work in the Laikipia Plateau (meaning I like to follow monkeys around). I also enjoy birds and insects. In my spare time, I go dancing at Lion’s Court in Nanyuki.
The Fun Stuff
Favorite movie: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Favorite book: Origin of Species- Darwin
What was your favorite musical group when you were in junior high? Green Day
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? DRC (Congo) because of the primate density. Or Paupa New Guinea because of the amount of languages spoken in such a little space.
You’re about to make your way down the green mile, what do you have as your last meal? Rice and beans with avocado and crushed tomatoes.
Who is the person you respect the most and why? My father because he is the most generous person I know. He also works harder than anyone I know. He has always been supportive of my endeavors and has reminded me to always pursue what I am passionate about. He also knows how to have fun, and he challenges the status quo/thinks outside the box.
What do you think is the secret to a good life? Having fun, laughing and not taking life too seriously.
Throughout the selection process, co-founder Jenni Doherty has sent reports from the field. Her reports have given us insight into one of the most important aspects of the school: the student selection process.
INTERVIEWS IN THE LOCAL AREA
When we last left you, the student selection team had gone to Nakuru to interview students from Western Kenya. Upon their return, they interviewed girls from the local area surrounding Daraja Academy. Jenni explains:
“We had our final day of interviews last Tuesday with girls from our local area. Some of you may not know that at the end of last year, we hosted nine girls from our closest local school, Ol Girigiri Primary School, for three months before they took the extremely important Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam. We learned last September that the local school was allowing the boys to board (as a way to eliminate home distractions and allow them to focus on studying for the exam). We were a little incensed that the girls were not offered the same opportunity. We went to the school and offered them one of our bandas. The Class 8 girls would stay with us during the week. We would feed them good meals and allow our Daraja girls to tutor them. I am happy to say that for the first time ever in the school’s history, four girls scored over 300 marks on their KCPE. That says a lot about our model.”
The admissions team ended up selecting a few of those students, as well as a select amount of others from the nearby villages and towns.
Ol Girigiri Primary School
The area surrounding the Ol Girigiri Primary School. This school is a 15 minute walk from the Daraja Academy campus.
THE FINAL 26
After thorough debate and analysis, the team finally chose what they felt were the strongest 26 girls out of the many that were interviewed. On Friday, February 11th, they sent the acceptance letters and made the calls. Jenni describes the moment:
“We narrow it down to our 26 girls. We start making phone calls. Vice-Principal Victoria is on one phone and Mr.Charles, Dean of Curriculum, is on the other. First call (in Swahili of course), “Hello Mama. Where is Irene? Has she gone to school? No, she hasn’t? I am calling from Daraja Academy. May I speak with Irene, I have a final question to ask her.” Irene gets on the phone. “Hello, Irene. I am calling from Daraja Academy and I have one question for you.” Irene responds, “Go Ahead.” (and Victoria laughs) “Would you like to be a student at Daraja?” “Oh, Yes!!!” She squeals. Victoria laughs and so do the rest of us, because we are all listening into the conversation. Charles stopped dialing so he could hear as well. At the end of the call we all shout together and laugh and clap our hands in joy.
That is the moment when all the hard interviews, and the tiredness melt away and you are left with the warmest feeling in your heart and this lightness. Imagine sitting through call after call like this. We got some good, albeit bittersweet, calls in where we learned three of the students we had selected had made it to another school. You are so happy that she went to school, but you are a bit sad because you know what we can offer her. But what is really great is when one goes to school, it opens a slot for another deserving girl at Daraja. The first day of calling left us with two empty spaces.”
After careful deliberation, the team picked two girls to fill the open slots. Both of those students were not enrolled in school when the team called and therefore received admission.
And with that folks, Daraja Academy now has its freshman class of 2014! The new students report to campus next Friday, February 25th. What a journey it has been!
To many of us, Valentine’s Day is just another holiday on the calendar. A day when men scramble to make sure they get the right gift. A day when girls say they “don’t want flowers” (which actually translates to: you should know to get me flowers even if I say I don’t want them).
But to the Dohertys, this holiday signifies so much more than getting the right gift…
Jenni: Five years ago today on a cool Valentine’s Day, Jason and I spent the day wandering through the De Young Museum and acting like tourists in San Francisco. We dropped into a little restaurant in North Beach called Café Jacqueline. I think all the stars were aligned that day. Jason and I had been married for 4 and half years, and it was time to have the infamous discussion. The lights were low and candles flickered on the table. The ambiance was wonderful and the soufflés were amazing. I leaned across the table, and looked lovingly at my husband and asked, “Darling, when are we going to start having kids?” Jason looked lovingly back at me, a little thoughtful, and said, “I’d really like to start a school in Africa.”
Jason: Most women would have reached across the table to slap me. But Jenni reached across the table for a napkin to write on. She started asking me questions about the school; she started writing notes on that napkin — notes about how to make the school happen.
Jenni: From that simple conversation five years ago, we have an amazing school with 52 girls, and another 26 to joining in a few weeks. It is truly our labor of love. That is our love story this Valentine’s Day. And as to having our own children…well, we hope someday soon we might be fortunate enough to start our own family. But in the meantime, we have our Daraja family and our wonderful Kenyan daughters.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone. Thank you for all the love that you have shown this project!
The girls had a scrimmage against St. Aloise Secondary and managed to win 3-2! They were led by Coach Martin Husum. Martin coached the girls last February during his first visit to Daraja. He has returned this year to work his magic again. Hopefully all this practice will pay off next term when the girls compete in Kenya’s annual soccer competition!
It all started last Fall, when founders Jenni and Jason Doherty came to speak at Marin Academy and my son Jono and wife Joanne came home talking about a school in Kenya and how Jono was thinking he might travel to Africa this summer. My first thought was, ‘East Africa? No way.’ Then I too met the Dohertys and learned more about this incredible program.
After some discussion about the school’s needs and research into various fundraising approaches, Jono began writing letters to – well – everyone, in an attempt to fund a computer lab for the school. The response was astounding. Seemingly everyone who heard of the project wanted to help. Ultimately, Jono raised over $7,000 in donations, plus another few thousand dollars’ worth of digital cameras donated by members of the Marin Photography Club.
Because of the limited electrical power at the school, the decision was made to buy Toshiba netbooks with 10 hour batteries. (I’ll add a plug for Best Buy here: When the local salesman was approached and learned more about the project, he found a way to offer the supplies below his cost!
So to Kenya went a room-full of laptops, mice, headphones, external hard drives, digital cameras, flash drives (for students and staff to store their data), DVD/CD-RW drives, an N-band wireless router, 240V surge protectors, and assorted cleaning supplies and peripherals. In short, an entire computer and photography lab!
But the lab was just the starting point. The focus of the project simultaneously turned to teaching the concepts necessary to take advantage of these tools. Lesson plans were created for basic computer learning and introductory photography skills. In addition, John King, a retired engineer who teaches seniors to use computers in the local adult ed program, was recruited to write companion written lessons for the computer project. In addition to the countless hours that he put into writing four lessons, he offered some great advice for the classroom curriculum. (At the Cavallo Point fundraiser, he and his wife also bought a cow for the school. “After all,” he said, “when else in their lives would they be able to say that they bought a cow?”)
As winter turned into spring, it was decided that it would be me that would be joining Jono in Kenya. While we talked through curriculum development and how to present the concepts to students with little if any prior technology access, Joanne assisted with fundraising and took care of the medical aspects of our trip preparation – each day seemed to bring a new vaccination. J
When visiting the U.S. in May, Jenni and Jason volunteered to help transport the equipment the 9,600 miles to the school. The computers and cameras were farmed out between them, us, and a half dozen other volunteers who were making the trip. (And I still fondly remember the day when we brought the equipment over to their home. What an exciting moment as all of the planning took on the air of reality that this was all going to happen.)
A few weeks later, school in Marin was out and Jono and I made the long trip to Kenya.
Marin Catholic High School students worked with Traveling Postcards, an organization that uses art to “enact change, empower women and help battle oppression.” Students were encouraged to create postcards that showed their personalities and provided notes of inspiration and hope. Their postcards will be sent to the Daraja Academy students.
The Traveling Postcards exhibit is displayed in the hallway at Marin Catholic High School (above).
Postcards done by the Marin students.
Students displaying their postcards.
Carr Educational Foundation board member Lisa Rodondi (second to left) spoke to students about the Daraja Academy and the students that attend the school.
It was great to see students put so much heart and hard work into the project.