Fund Fosters New Generation of African Leaders

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 28, 2016 | Go to article overview

Fund Fosters New Generation of African Leaders


Byline: Janet Heinonen For The Register-Guard

Educators refer to them as HALI students: High Achieving, Low Income. Identifying those students, inspiring them, and helping them gain access to an affordable college education is a difficult task, but one that brings great rewards.

These are the students - domestic or international - who can become agents of change in their communities and pave the way for others like them. Their voices are too often missing on American campuses.

The Eugene-based East African Scholars Fund is helping. It provides major financial support and leadership for Kenya's Education and Social Empowerment Program, which has guided 44 HALI students who've earned close to $11 million in full-need scholarships in the United States.

They include Nicholas Koech, who grew up in Nairobi's Kibera slum, and is headed to the University of California-Berkeley's School of Engineering.

They include Gloria Kurere - raised in an arid village where girls see early marriage as their fate - who will graduate from Cornell in May with plans to work in public health.

They include Cornellius Metto (Princeton 2015), the first of three in a remarkable family of modest means to study in the United States. Cornellius took his computer science degree to Microsoft, but only after spending the summer tutoring Education and Social Empowerment Program students - including his brother, who will enter Princeton this fall.

The East African Scholars Fund's mission is not only scholar ships, it's to develop a new generation of educated, capable, altruistic and open-minded East African leaders.

How does one cultivate such people? Besides the expected college preparation work, the scholars fund encourages students to explore and study their country with fresh vision, and to use their leadership skills.

The Education and Social Empowerment Program's current class of students recently organized a fact-finding/mentoring trip to Kokwa Island in Kenya's Lake Baringo. They returned home exhausted, but with a newfound focus on how their academic careers can affect conditions in places like Kokwa.

The East African Scholars Fund connected the 10 students to the Network for Ecofarming in Africa, a community-based nongovernmental organization promoting ecologically sustainable land management and access to education, health, food security and social dignity. (Not coincidentally, the network is backed by the Eugene nonprofit organization Friends of Kenya Schools and Wildlife.)

Armed with instruction in field research basics, the Education and Social Empowerment Program team conducted community needs assessments, mentored younger students, and compiled their findings and recommendations in a report to the Network for Ecofarming in Africa. …

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