Sunday, August 21, 2011

East Africa Day 95 (Tues Aug 16): KenSAP Meeting & Equity Centres of Excellence

I went back to Kenyatta University’s campus this AM, hoping to catch the Pre-University students, who were part of the 2011 Centres of Excellence give one of their two presentations. I learned that the presentation would take place at 2pm. Yes!



In the AM the students were broken up into groups. Each group met with principals from Kenya’s top high schools for discussions about community service. I walked around the Congress grounds and listened in on the discussions.





I also got to meet Kilonzo, one of the Directors of the Education Pillar. He was born in Kenya but was raised in the US, and only recently returned to Kenya with his family. We had such an interesting conversation about the differences between US and Kenyan education systems, and the goals of the Education Pillar. I’m so glad that I happened to meet him – it was a very enlightening conversation! I caught a little bit more of the talks afterwards, including a session where students were invited to raise their hands and speak about how they could address problems. It was really interesting to hear the problems that the students identified and their solutions.

I then met up with one of the KenSAP founders, Mike, for lunch in the nearby Kenyatta University Conference Centre Cafeteria. We were joined by his wife, Lillian, who also teaches at the University. I was so excited to meet them and learn more about KenSAP!

I’d heard about KenSAP from three different persons, while conducting my research – Purity at Akili Dada, Mari Nelson at the American Educational Advising Center, and Daniel an Equity Pre-University Scholar who is about to begin his freshman year at UPenn that I met at the Equity Congress last week. So I finally looked into KenSAP over the weekend, and was so impressed. I found a contact for KenSAP on the website and requested an informational interview.

KenSAP was counded in 2004 by Mike and John. Since then they have helped fifty five Kenyans gain admission and full scholarships to top US universities (including Lehigh!) based on academic merit and athletic ability. Mike is a former member of the Kenyan Olympic Team and a world-class runner. Mike and John met when John was in the Peace Corps in Kenya. When Mike was in the US for the Olympics, John called him up and they eventually co-founded KenSAP, after working to get Mike’s son into a US university, and observing how challenging that was, even though Mike had attended US universities (including Stanford for two masters degrees) and John is a Harvard alum, so they were familiar with the college application process.

I learned that the KenSAP scholars live together for several weeks over the summer, where they are mentored through the US university application process. The students run with a Kenyan running coach each AM, and are tutored during the day by American university students or recent graduates who have successfully navigated the application process themselves and are therefore very familiar with it! The Americans get to live on campus and run with the students, thereby benefitting from Kenyan training conditions, making the Americans more competitive when they return to the USA. I’m sure you can already tell that I immediately started imagining what it would be like, to be a KenSAP summer teacher:)

Mike and Lillian are hands-on here in Kenya, while John helps the students get settled in the USA when they get to the US for university. Mike and Lillian found that they had to turn away such amazing students because they just didn’t have room for them in the KenSAP program. So last year Lillian started her own program for talented boys and girls, to help them through the US university application process. She has also been very successful, and hopes to continue to grow the program (which does not have a running component, that I know of.) It is obvious that Mike and Lillian are very passionate about the work that they do, and that they’ll keep doing it for a very long time. I felt so lucky to get to meet them today! I’m hoping to get to catch up with John when I get back to the USA.



After lunch I headed back to the Equity Congress for the Centres of Excellence 2pm presentation. Unfortunately it was pushed back, and I only got to stay for the first part of the presentation before the sun began to lower in the sky, and I knew that I needed to start home if I was going to make it to the compound before sunset. But the part that I did hear of the presentation was excellent! A handful of the Pre-University mentors sat in the special chairs set up behind the podium, in matching Equity polo shirts.



Rosemary introduced them to the rest of the Equity Congress students, and gave a brief overview of the program.



Then a mentor took the podium one at a time, to present on a different topic. I only saw the first topic, and then the beginning of the second. The first topic was Time Management, and the second was Mentor and Mentee Relationships. It was so interesting to hear the mentors speak. The first speaker – the only one I saw in full – basically took his observations from his time at the secondary school where he was teaching/mentoring and his own personal experiences as a top secondary school student, and turned it into a motivational speech full of practical, specific tips for the students in the audience. Personally, I thought it was extremely well done. Again, my camera didn’t allow me to capture the full speech due to limited memory, but I got the last part.

INSERT VIDEO ... at a later date ... taking too long to upload to YouTube tonight. IN the meantime here's a still photo of the Pre-University mentor speaking ...



I made it home just as the sun was setting … or errr maybe a little after that. I am becoming an expert on this:)

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