Archive For: Blog

Looking Back: 2013 was a Fantastic Year at Daraja Academy!

With 2013 coming to a close, we’d like to take a walk down memory lane and look back on such a momentous year for Daraja Academy.

January started off with a new school year – the 5th for Daraja. Second, third, and fourth-year students returned to campus excited for the upcoming year, eager to learn. Also this month, “School of my Dreams,” a new documentary about Daraja was released by Out of the Blue Films and executive director Deborah Santana. Be sure to check out the trailer here!

In February, the K.C.S.E exam scores were released for the Class of 2012. For the first Daraja class to ever take the exams, we were blown away by their success. Daraja’s top scorer, Betty who scored an average of an A-, also had the top score in our district, which earned her a job at Equity Bank and a scholarship to the University of Nairobi. Daraja ranked 92nd out of 1,233, an extraordinary achievement for a school taking exams for the first time.

Students celebrate as they receive awards for the 2012 K.C.S.E. Exam

Students celebrate as they receive awards for the 2012 K.C.S.E. Exam

March welcomed Daraja’s newest group of students: the Class of 2016. 26 bright and determined young women have continued to impress their fellow students and teachers with their enthusiasm to further their education. They quickly became part of the Daraja family by joining clubs, sports teams, and even being elected prefects – a high honor for a first-year student.

Class of 2016

Class of 2016

April brought a brand-new program to campus: The Transition Program. Daraja students who finished their fourth year at Daraja in 2012 returned to campus to join Teacher Carol and participate in the first ever transition program. The first few months consisted of community service and learning skills such as personal finance and resume writing before the girls left for their internships all over the Laikipia region in schools, game parks, hospitals, hotels, and even on Daraja’s campus.

In May, Daraja students ran with thousands of other supporters around the globe for the annual Bay to Breakers fundraiser. Our tied-for-first place winners on campus were first year Salome, third year Joyce, and fourth year Lisayo. We had over 150 runners from California to Australia running to support our students.

2012 Bay to Breakers Champion Lineth Chepkriui and Zeki

2012 Bay to Breakers Champion Lineth Chepkriui and 4th-year Zeki

Throughout the year, Daraja students competed in different tournaments- be it sports, music, and more! Between a three-day sports competition in Nanyuki, the annual Music Festival, and a local science congress event, the girls were busy applying their skills outside of campus! The soccer (football) team won the Provincial tournament and moved onto the Regional tournament. Seven Daraja students ranked in the top ten positions at the Regional Music Competition.

Members of Daraja's Soccer (Football) Team

Members of Daraja’s Soccer (Football) Team

During Term 2, Daraja hosted its very first community event in Kenya in nearby Nanyuki. The purpose was to network with local organizations, representatives, and community members to spread the word and mission of Daraja! Guests enjoyed snacks, meeting Daraja students, Daraja’s two films, and a Q&A with co-founders, Jason and Jenni.

4th-year Gitwa speaks with Community Day visitors

4th-year Gitwa speaks with Community Day visitors

In June and July, Daraja was lucky to host numerous special guests. Kenyan peacemaker, Alice Nderitu, came to campus for a seminar. She was an inspiration to the Daraja students, many of whom dream of following in Alice’s footsteps, nationally and in their home communities. We also welcomed visitors from California high school, Woodside Priory, who volunteered around campus and played an important role in the cross-cultural experience Daraja strives to provide for our students. Visitors from Mpala Research Center, just outside campus, as well as students from James Madison University and University of San Diego shared their experiences and talents with our students.

Peacemaker Alice Nduriru speaking to Daraja students

Peacemaker Alice Nderitu speaking to Daraja students

In August, the world welcomed the very first graduates from Daraja Academy. After completing secondary school, winning many awards for their K.C.S.E. performance in our district, and finishing the Transition Program, 25 of the world’s best and brightest crossed the stage on Daraja’s campus and threw their caps into the air to signify their completion of the Daraja Academy program. It was a momentous event not only for our students, but our entire campus community. The Class of 2012 has already exceeded our expectations and are changing the world with more than eight graduates in university, a few teaching, and many more volunteering or working in their home communities.

Daraja's Inaugural Class of 2012!

Daraja’s Inaugural Class of 2012!

Daraja Academy was sure to celebrate big in October for the second ever International Day of the Girl. With the theme being “Innovating for Girls Education,” Daraja fit the bill quite well. On campus, student reflected on the power of girls and discussed The Girl Effect’s newest project: The Girl Declaration. Off-campus, Daraja was highlighted by the UN Girls Education Initiative as an innovative and effective organization in breaking the mold of girl’s empowerment and was featured on the Girls Speak Out webcast for the International Day of the Girl Summit.

During Term 3, 15 students traveled two hours North to Kimanjo, where they competed in the Amazing Maasai Ultra Marathon and volunteered at the event. Second-year Rebecca raced especially well, placing in the top three female finishers for the 21K distance!

2nd-year Winrose finishing the Amazing Maasai Ultramarathon

2nd-year Winrose finishing the Amazing Maasai Ultramarathon

In October, Daraja hosted a Kenyan Red Cross blood drive after the Westgate attacks in Nairobi. It was a tremendous success with students, teachers, staff, and volunteers donating blood as well as learning about the donation process. Daraja donated over 50 units of blood in just one afternoon.

1st-year Alice donating blood.

2nd-year Alice donating blood.

Our next class of graduates began and completed their K.C.S.E. testing during October and November, and have now completed the secondary school curriculum! Results for the exams will come out in the next few months, and they will soon be welcomed back to campus for the Transition Program in March!

The Class of 2013 hours after finishing the K.C.S.E

The Class of 2013 after finishing the K.C.S.E

The new school year will begin the first week of January with campus welcoming the 6th first-year class (Class of 2017!) in February.

We can’t thank you enough for your support through this significant year for Daraja, and we look forward to all that’s to come in 2014! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Happy Holidays from the Daraja Family!

IMG_6069

For much of the world, the November, December, and January months signify a time of celebration, quality time, and meaningful gift giving. In Kenya, holiday celebrations do not differ much from the United States. Right now, Daraja students are on break from classes and are home with their families. They are celebrating holidays, spending time with their loved ones and communities, performing community service, and preparing for the new school year starting in January.

Because Daraja students come from various areas of the country and are members of 30 ethnic groups and 3 religions, their holiday celebrations differ in unique ways.

In Kilifi County on Kenya’s coast, Jesica and her family will sit down to a meal of fish and rice to celebrate Christmas. “I love it so much because our family comes together to share stories from the year. Being with all my relatives brings me so much joy; it is my favorite part of school break. I can’t wait,” Jesica explained before leaving at the end of term three.

Right outside of Daraja’s campus in Nanyuki, Naomi and her family prepare a large meal to celebrate the holidays. They invite many people in their community to join, since Naomi says “no one should be hungry, especially on the holidays.” Her family opts to prepare simple, affordable dishes in order to feed a larger quantity of people. Naomi expressed her excitement for this tradition by saying, “in my community, we are all friends. We take care of each other.”

In the Sultan Hamud region of Kenya, both Winifred and Rose await their favorite holiday of the year- New Years. Winnie and Rose both just completed their first year at Daraja, and they clicked instantly upon discovering that they are from the same area. They intend to visit one another during the school break since their communities are within walking distance. Winnie looked ahead and explained, “Maybe at new years I will visit Rose. At midnight we will go outside and cheer and yell. We can run through the streets and dance and sing.”

Purity, another student who will begin her second year at Daraja in January, will be traveling to various areas in Kenya in order to spend time with her vast network of relatives. She explained, “Since it is the rainy season, traveling prices are high, but my family saves money all year to visit family members. It is really important to us.” She spent time in nearby Nanyuki with her Aunt immediately following the end of the term, until she traveled to Nairobi to be with her Mother and siblings. Together, they are all visiting other relatives around the country this break.

Mary N will be a fourth year student in January, and she is preparing for the new school year at home in the Mombasa region, celebrating with her family. “This break is my favorite because I love sharing jokes and stories with my whole family. We get to spend a lot of time together, and the elders in my family tell lots of stories and give us history of our ancestors,” Mary N explained.

From the Daraja family to your family, Happy Holidays! To support Daraja Academy for the start of the new school year, help stock at student’s backpack or fund their healthcare for the upcoming year. Visit our Crowdrise Holiday Challenge fundraising page for more information

Why Daraja?

There’s a little thing we call “Daraja Fever,” that visitors and volunteers often catch and spread during and after visiting campus. Symptoms include sore cheeks from smiling, a full heart of love, and a plaguing desire to return once you’ve left. Experiencing campus and meeting the Daraja girls isn’t something that everyone is able to do, so we’d like to illustrate it for you, as best we can with the limitations of words.

IMG_5369

“Daraja is more than just a school; it is a great idea that’s been given flesh.” -Laikipia County Minister of Education 

The idea: Provide a place—not just a physical space, but an atmosphere—where bright, eager, left-out-of-the-equation Kenyan girls can realize their potential and play an active role in crafting their future.

The flesh: Every weekday morning on Daraja’s campus, more than one hundred girls button their shirts, tie their ties, buckle their shoes, and walk to study hall. If not at Daraja, many of them would be on their way back from the 6 kilometer walk to collect the day’s water or comforting a crying sibling in the absence of one, or maybe both parents. But, these girls are more than their stories.

They’re teenagers.

It’s Saturday afternoon and girls are already gathering stools and arranging seats in front of Daraja’s small television for the Saturday evening movie. The girls finish dinner and anxiously await 7:30 PM, when computer and tech prefect, Lilian, returns with a Harry Potter film- everyone squeals with excitement. Girls shuffle in their seats and get comfortable as Regina ensures that the cords are all plugged in and working. During action-packed scenes, girls cheer on their favorite characters and predict what’s coming next. Movie-watching at Daraja isn’t a passive activity, it’s an event.

They’re role models.

To sit with second-year Agnes during a meal is like sitting with the wisest person you’ve ever met. You’ll grab your rice and beans and she’ll motion for you to come join her, moving over to make room for you. She’ll instruct you, “tell me about yourself.” As you speak, she nods along and her eyes never leave yours, she’s really listening to all you’ve got to say.

“What do you aspire to be,” she will ask, “I need role models, so that I can learn to be one myself.” She will tell you about her dreams to become not only a doctor- but a flying emergency doctor- and to transform health in her home community of Kiambu. Agnes will insist on washing your plate when you finish your meal, and won’t let you leave without a hug. She’s passionate about carrying herself with confidence and dignity, and those qualities nearly radiate off her five-foot-one body as she walks across Daraja’s campus.

They’re game-changers.

When Cate was in primary school, she collected as much paper as she could on her way home from class to burn for light when studying after dark. She admired her teachers for their kindness and knowledge, and knew that she wouldn’t give up on her education. She interviewed for admission to Daraja since she knew that her family wouldn’t be able to pay school fees and she got in; Cate was the first girl in her primary school to attend secondary school in many years. After four years, Cate is now a teacher at Junior Scholars Elementary, a private school just outside of Nanyuki. Since she began teaching there, her students’ scores have improved on every single exam they’ve taken.

Faith grew up just outside of Daraja’s gates, in the nearest settlement called Naibor. She grew up battling the stereotypes of unimportance because of the intense poverty in her community. In August, during Daraja’s first graduation ceremony, Faith gave her salutatorian speech and claimed pride and ownership over her hometown, in addition to confidence within herself and trust in her growth. “We’ve grown wings,” she declared about herself and the rest of her graduating class, “and we will fly even higher than you expect.” Faith could barely look Daraja administrators in the eye out of shyness during her admission interview, and she is now studying hard at Kenyatta University, one of the top schools in the country.

Why Daraja Post

The Minister of Education is right; Daraja is more than just a school. Daraja is a spirit, which enters the hearts of everyone involved. That’s why we call ourselves a family; we are bound by something greater than ourselves; we are bound by the excellence of these girls, faith in their development, and excitement for their futures.

Alumni Check-In: Lillian

DSC_0771

In August of this year, Daraja celebrated our first graduating class of girls. After four years of secondary school classes and a five-month Transition Program, Lillian walked across the stage on Daraja’s campus and received Daraja’s equivalent of a diploma- a certificate of program completion- as well as her official “leaving documents,” standard for graduated secondary school students across Kenya.

Now, months later, Lillian has gotten a job, started working, and continued to represent Daraja Academy in everything that she does. Her classmates can be found across the country doing similar things: finding jobs, working, going to University, and applying to certification programs and trade schools. They’ve each crossed their own ‘daraja,’ meaning ‘bridge,’ to create their own path for their future.

After graduating, Lillian focused on herself. She spent time thinking about the last four years at Daraja and how they have impacted her life. Piggybacking from the last activity in the Transition Program, the Daraja Quest, Lillian reflected on her values, her goals, and herself when contemplating her next steps.

Although she was accepted into the Business Management Program at Karatina University, Lillian decided that she would apply to Nursing Programs instead. Lillian explains, “Nursing is what I really want to do, it’s where my heart is.” Lillian conducted her Transition Program Internship in the maternity ward at Nanyuki District Hospital where she developed her love for nursing and was able to practice what she hopes to study in the future.

For now, Lillian is working at an M-Pesa location near her home. M-Pesa is a mobile-phone based money transfer and micro-financing service for Safaricom and Vodacom, the largest mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania. She works conducting money transfers and assisting customers with any issues that they may face.

“I started looking for a job once I graduated in order to stay busy and make some money. I am saving for when I decide to attend school again so that I am independent and can support myself. I just walked into stores and places near my home and asked if they were hiring. I learned confidence and professionalism at Daraja which helped me with that,” Lillian said.

When asked what other lessons she learned at Daraja that she’s utilized so far out of school, Lillian explained, “I learned things like math and interview skills that helped me start working after I left Daraja, but I think the most important thing that I learned was to pursue my dreams.”

Lillian visited Daraja’s campus in October and November to participate in a local Youth Forum put on by Denmark’s Action Aid! organization. She is sure to stay involved with initiatives like these that support local youth and encourage life-long learning, and she is glad to be representing Daraja wherever she goes.

She concluded, “I am proud of myself, and I am happy.”

Lillian, we are proud of you too!

Sponsor Spotlight: Gaughran Family

At the end of each term, Daraja students ritualistically sit down for one of their favorite activities and traditions on campus- writing sponsor letters. Because sponsors are truly the lifeblood of Daraja and the enablers for Daraja’s programs, the girls get excited to share their lives and stories with their sponsors time and time again.

Being a sponsor can be an immensely rewarding experience for people of any walk of life. The sponsor population for Daraja students includes Americans, Danes, organizations, young people, and much more. Sponsors decide to build a relationship with a girl for a number of reasons- to support Daraja’s program, to connect with a student across the world, or to give back to a cause they believe in – girls’ education. Each sponsor gets something unique out of the experience, depending on who they are.

It is becoming common for families to sponsor one or more Daraja students. Sponsoring a Daraja girl is a great way to grow as a family, for and with their student. For the Gaughran Family of New York (Steve, Kathy, and their daughter, Maggie), sponsoring Daraja students has been among the most rewarding endeavors they’ve ever had opportunity to take on. Together, they’ve sponsored four Daraja girls, three who have just finished their K.C.S.E. exam, Shamsia, Grace, and Zeki; and one graduated student, Florence Mueni.

The Gaughran’s explained, “We have really enjoyed forming a relationship with the girls we sponsor. The letters exchanged and hearing about how things are going in school and in their lives is great. The letters are beautifully written.”

Although it is not an expectation, sponsors are welcome to visit campus at some point to meet their student in person, something that the Gaughran Family has done many times. Collectively, through many family and individual trips, the family has visited campus for a total of 25 weeks since Daraja opened.

Steve confessed, “Visiting campus is by far my favorite part, going there and seeing how hard everyone works, not just the girls, but the teachers and staff as well. One quickly feels like part of the Daraja campus family while you are there. You are made to feel very welcome and everyone appreciates that you have come to visit and help out.”

Shamsia, Grace, and Zeki, the three girls who the Gaughran’s sponsor, have really loved the relationships that they’ve built with the family. Zeki said, “It is so great that I don’t just have one sponsor, we’re like a big family with them, Shamsia, Grace, and me.”

Shamsia continued, “I want to tell them thank you every chance that I can.”

Grace agreed, “I miss them every single day. I am so thankful that they have supported me at Daraja, I would be a different person without them.”

The Gaughran’s are excited for this coming July, because all three of their girls will be graduating from the Daraja Academy, following their completion of the Transition Program. “The girls are a part of our family,” they explained, “we have pictures of them in our house just as we have pictures of our own family. Seeing them mature from first year students to graduates has been truly remarkable. Watching them grow makes us proud just like they are our own children!”

If you, your family, school club, organization, religious congregation, or any other group are interested in sponsoring one or more Daraja students, e-mail info@daraja-academy.org for more information or visit our website.

What’s Antonella up to on Break?

At the end of each term, Daraja girls venture to their home communities for a short break for two weeks to over a month, depending on the time of year. Comparable to summer breaks and winter holidays in the United States, the girls always look forward to seeing their families and friends during their time away from class.

Part of Daraja’s educational model includes community service, which is how students compensate for their time at Daraja. Over each break, the girls perform 10 documented hours of community service in their hometowns.  Students share the knowledge and skills they have learned in class, WISH, life skills, and interactions with volunteers with their local communities.

Thanks to this initiative, Daraja can reach and serve immeasurable amounts of people. The students act as a link in a chain where knowledge is spread from Daraja to the girls, and from the girls into their communities.  When asked, the girls love talking about the service they perform over their school breaks. Many girls complete their hours at the same location for all four years, while others try new things each break.

Antonella, who has just finished her first full year as a Daraja student, especially looks forward to school breaks because of the community service opportunities. She is from Baragoi, a town in Northern Kenya.

She explains, “doing community service at home is like bringing Daraja with me wherever I go. Sometimes, if I don’t have too many chores at home, I do more than ten hours, just for fun!”

For the last two breaks, Antonella has completed (and exceeded!) her hours at a local hospital. Her tasks have included washing the wards, greeting and managing patients, calling them into their rooms, and cleaning the dispensary.

Antonella has been doing community service even before she arrived at Daraja, helping her fellow primary school students as a tutor and doing chores for the elderly in her community.

“During community service, I become a better person,” Antonella reflects, “I like talking to other Daraja students about their community service because I like hearing about what their home communities are like.”

Like Antonella, many girls complete their service hours at hospitals and dispensaries. Some girls even help organize medications and tend to patients as a nurse or pharmacist shadow. Others teach in their local primary schools, tutor younger students, lead workshops to teach their communities about lessons they’ve learned at Daraja, and more.

We are glad to instill a service mentality in each Daraja girl, and graduates continue to perform community service after they leave Daraja. With 30 hours minimum completed each year by 104 total girls, the impact that Daraja is able to have on communities across Kenya is vast and inspiring.

Meet Our Head Chef: Aloise!

Thanks to a dedicated staff, life on campus runs smoothly each day. With sometimes over 200 mouths to feed, a farm to tend to, and the security of the campus to ensure, Daraja employs a large local staff in order to keep things up and running. Many of these staff members have been working on campus since the “pre-Daraja” days, where the campus was home to the Baraka School, a small educational program that aimed to transform at-risk boys from Baltimore into successful students with a future.

IMG_5886Aloise, however, was not one of those staff members. He serves as the head of the kitchen department and he can tell you the exact date for when he began working with Daraja.

“It was 2009,” he explains with a shy smile, “26th of July, 2009, I was very excited and very nervous.”

Before joining the Daraja Academy community, Aloise worked as a chef atop nearby Mount Kenya, where he cooked hot meals for hungry and tired trekkers. In 2009, Aloise worked in our kitchen as a general staff member, before becoming the head of the department in late 2011.

Because he started in 2009, he has watched the student body grow from just one first-year class, to where it is now at full capacity with about 26 girls in each of the four classes. He reports that it has been a lot of fun to watch the campus grow and explains that “now, the campus is more lively. It is more exciting with so many girls.”

The girls love having Aloise around, too, and most pass up using his name in order to refer to him as “Uncle” or “Bush Baby.” In addition to preparing meals and overseeing operations in the kitchen, Aloise can be found helping out on campus with anything from harvesting kale and greens in the farm to addressing technical difficulties during the weekly movie on Saturday nights.

When asked about his favorite part of his job, Aloise explains, “I love to bake. Daraja has an oven and we bake bread almost every day, and sometimes we bake cinnamon rolls too.” The wide smile across his face shows how much passion lies behind his words. “I have never gotten to bake so often before,” he finishes.

From the girls cheers when Aloise fixes broken wires during Saturday movies to their excited interaction with him as he prepares and serves up meals, it is clear that the students are glad to have Aloise as part of the Daraja family as well.

Daraja Girls Participate in Local Youth Forum

When end of term exams ended on Thursday, November 14th, first, second, and third year students left campus for school break before the new 2014 school year begins in January. That is, except for three soon-to-be fourth year students, Moreen Kajuju, Mary S, and Mesret, who stayed behind to participate in a Youth Forum for a few days.

The Youth Forum was presented by Action Aid Denmark, an organization that shares a portion of Daraja’s campus for their activities. Action Aid is a global youth network involving thousands of local and Danish volunteers and located in more than 25 countries. Youth Forum’s are organized each month to involve local youth and promote open discussion, innovative thinking, and global partnership with rotating topics.

November’s Youth Forum topic was Gender and Health, and featured collaboration style activities where local Nanyuki Kenyans, Daraja students, and volunteers from Denmark worked together to learn about topics such as the difference between sex and gender, defying gender roles, and how gender can stigmatize health issues.

In the first activity, groups were asked to illustrate differences between men and women by drawing what they think men and women look and act like. In her group, Moreen Kajuju was vocal and excited to share her experiences with the differences between genders in Kenya. Without hesitation, she became the spokesperson for the group when sharing what they’d discussed with the other groups.

A major part of the day’s activities revolved around a session called “Forum Theatre.” In forum theatre, both actors and spectators play a crucial role. During scenes, spectators engage in discussion about what they are seeing and can even stop and change the performance to see better outcomes. The Daraja girls were not afraid to participate in this activity and valued the different approach to drama and acting.

Moreen Kajuju reflected, “It was really cool to combine what we were learning with acting. I got to learn a lot about discussion and how to talk about sensitive topics. Lots of people disagreed, but in a good way. It was very interesting.”

The workshop ran from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and the girls returned from the event feeling excited and thankful for the opportunity to participate.

Mesret explained, “I learned a lot and made a lot of new friends. It was a fun time sharing stories and discussing how different our experiences are.”

Mary S. agreed, continuing, “I am glad that I was able to go to the forum. I learned new things that I never thought about before.”

Daraja graduates are also involved with the Youth Forum. Lilian, who lives in Nanyuki, was also able to attend the forum. This was the third forum and topic that she has been able to participate in, and explains that she “really likes going to them and learning each time.” Monicah, who will be attending University of Nairobi in January, has spent the past few months volunteering as a facilitator for Action Aid, especially at the Youth Forums.

“I would never recognize me, if I saw myself now”

When she arrived at Daraja Academy four years ago, Joyce was quiet and nervous, but undoubtedly determined for a better future. Although she grew up in an environment with little encouragement and no positive role models, Joyce was determined to continue her education past primary school.

During her first and second years at Daraja, Joyce was a very quiet student. She studied hard but often kept to herself and rarely felt comfortable raising her hand in class or participating in extra school activities. Joyce focused on schoolwork in order to achieve her dreams for a better future.

After participating in WISH (Women of Integrity Strength and Hope) class each week at Daraja and taking the lessons she learned in school back to her community, Joyce’s shy demeanor began to change. During breaks, Joyce demonstrated how hard she was working at school by applying lessons learned in class when she conducted her community service in her hometown.

Then, Joyce began to play netball, a popular sport in Kenya. Netball is a game where players play a specific role and their actions are crucial to the team’s overall success. Joyce excelled in the defensive positions on the netball field and developed a strong sense of responsibility and confidence. Soon, teachers and administrators began to notice, this sense of responsibility and beaming confidence began to translate to her studies and her interactions off the field.

During her year as a fourth year student on Daraja’s campus, Joyce could be found studying with her fellow classmates, playing netball during sports time, or sitting with the first year girls during meals. She explained, “I remember when I first came to Daraja, I was really nervous and I wanted to make friends. I know that some of the Form 1’s [first years] feel the same way that I did, I want to show them what can happen if you believe in yourself and believe in Daraja.”

Today, she is back home after finishing her secondary school education. With the second-ever Transition Program fast approaching in March, girls were asked to mail in a confirmation that they’d be attended this voluntary opportunity. It came as no surprise to the administration that Joyce’s confirmation came in first, only a few days after she’d left campus.

When she finished her K.C.S.E. exam, Joyce took time to reflect on where she was four years ago, and how she felt at that very moment: “Four years ago, I never would have believed that I would get to take the K.C.S.E. I never would have believed that it would be easy for me to speak in front of a group of people. I would never recognize me, if I saw myself now.”

Administrators and teachers have seen the transformation as well. Charles, Dean of Academics, explained, “It’s actually very amazing the way that Joyce has changed. It shows how much of an impact Daraja can make on students. There are so many dimensions of impact that can be made when a girl is given opportunities and attention. They not only become better learners, but they also become better people. Joyce developed faith in herself through the things she has done at Daraja, it’s really, very amazing.”

With a couple of months at home before returning for the Transition Program, Joyce will be busy focusing her time on being with her friends and family and finding a place to volunteer or work in her community. “I can’t wait to come back to Daraja, I wish it could be right now! Instead, I will show all that Daraja has taught me while I wait.”

We can’t wait to see you, either, Joyce!

Alumni Check-In: Leila at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

Since Daraja’s first graduation ceremony in August, our graduates have dispersed themselves throughout the country, each with a separate journey. Some graduates have been volunteering before their January report date for University attendance, some have already started their University classes or are starting in January, some have been teaching, some have found jobs with banks and stores, and some have been joining trade schools.

Because, at Daraja, we always say “see you later,” and never “goodbye,” we’ve been excited to catch up with our graduates to see what impacts they are already making in their communities, just a few months after graduation. Leila Ali, from Isiolo, has already begun her classes at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

To start her Bachelor of Science degree, Leila reported at school in Nairobi in September, just a few days following the graduation ceremony. Like Daraja, Leila explains that University is filled with students from different areas and schools throughout Kenya.

When asked about her experience at University thus far, Leila explains, “I am taking nine class currently including Mathematics, advanced Biology, Chemistry, and more. The subjects are challenging but I am doing my best and I am working very hard!”

In the next few months, Leila will make the big decision about what to major in. Between classes, she’s busy contemplating her options, “I am choosing between Microbiology, Bio technology, and ecology. I just can’t decide!”

During the Transition Program, Leila conducted her internship on Daraja’s campus alongside Martin, our IT specialist. She quickly became versed in how to restore the solar power and wifi when it dropped, and she was the go-to resource for computer troubleshooting with teachers, volunteers, and staff.

Leila explains that although she really loves campus life at University, she really misses Daraja’s campus. “I miss my friends so much,” she reports, “especially those that live far from Nairobi. I also miss Mr. D and Miss Jenni [co-founders of Daraja Academy] and all of my teachers.”

Leila has carried the lessons she learned at Daraja with her to University, and frequently talks to her new friends about Daraja’s WISH (Women of Integrity, Strength, and Hope) class and the power of girls- or in her case- young women.

In a recent article published by Marin News, the local newsletter of San Rafael, CA, the hometown of Daraja’s founders, co-founder Jason explained that he could see girls like Leila as future parliament members and politicians in Kenya, if not a future president.