I am sitting at Jomo Kenyatta Airport awaiting my flight back to the middle of the U.S., reflecting on the highlights of my past 10 days in Nairobi. I always try to reserve some time to spend with students because that is what feeds my soul so this time I spoke 1:1 with 30 students who have been in our program between 8 – 11 years. We had a total of 31 students who successfully graduated from high school in 2016; all have joined the post-secondary program.
This past month we had U.S. volunteers in Kenya named Meghan and Evan Feige. They spent two weeks and conducted training for the 2016 graduates. The first week focused on improving self-awareness: Meyers-Briggs, emotional intelligence, understanding your strengths, developing your personal brand, and communicating effectively. Having now interviewed these 2016 graduates, I can say unequivocally that this training was profoundly impactful and a real eye-opener for all of them.
In Kenya, school is designed to help students prepare for tests. Those who are most successful are humble, do what teachers say, memorize effectively, do not challenge, and therefore succeed on exams. People who are innovative, risk-takers, or a bit defiant often get kicked out of school. Imagine having that kind of high school experience and then going to a class where someone asks you what your strengths are or asks you to understand the difference between people who are introverts and extroverts. Suffice it to say, their minds were blown!
The second week of Meghan and Evan’s training focused on very practical activities: writing a resume, practicing an interview, and thinking about how what they learned in week one applies to their futures. In addition to this training, they are taking a 3-month Computer Skills Certificate Program from a well-known Kenyan organization. They have also had lectures and interactive sessions on Career Planning and Communications Skills.
One of our graduates will enroll in a civil engineering course, two will become nurses and one will study to become a veterinarian. Other career interests include agri-business, teaching, community development, the hospitality industry, land management & surveying, IT, and more. In the coming months, these students will formalize their plans and we will communicate their plans to their sponsors.
Our agreed-upon goal (between the U.S. board and Kenyan operations) is that a minimum of 75% of students who complete high school and some post-secondary education will get jobs in the formal Kenyan economy. Estimates of the unemployment rate in Kenya are just that, but the most common unemployment rate I hear is 40%. We believe getting a good job is the ultimate “proof” of the effectiveness of our mission to support these young people as they seek to transform their own lives. We are confident graduates of this program will outperform Kenya’s unemployment rate of 40%.
As always, thank you for your support. The transformation in these students’ lives is profound and will reap benefits in Kenya and the world for generations to come.