Equity scholars fly to high-end global colleges
When Joshua Ochieng talks about his journey to joining Harvard University, the excitement in his voice is palpable.
Ochieng had first applied to join Yale University and when he missed out on the opportunity, he did not despair and sent applications to 13 universities, including Harvard.
After an arduous application process and emotionally draining interviews, he waited for a response.
On March 27, this year at 2am, the responses started trickling in and he began to go through them with bated breath.
The first few institutions had either deferred his application or rejected them.
Only three institutions–– Ashefi University in Ghana, African Leadership University and Pamona University in California–– had accepted his application.
By the time he got to the final mail from Harvard University, he could not bear the thought of facing another rejection or deferment.
“ I was a little disappointed, so I decided not to open the Harvard University e-mail, because I thought they had also rejected my application.
I went to sleep until 5.30am and I decided to just open it, though I was not very hopeful.
I made peace with it and told myself if I missed out, there were still three universities that had accepted my application.
When I opened the email and saw they had accepted my application, I just started screaming at the top of my voice,” he says.
He called his aunt to share the good news. He had a full scholarship to Harvard that included tuition, accommodation, travel and a work-study arrangement that would allow him to earn a stipend.
Ochien’g, says the road to Harvard, where he started online classes yesterday because of the Covid-19 pandemic, has been marked with hope, grief and finally triumph.
He was brought up by his mother and in October last year, three days before sitting his SAT exams, she died.
“It was a difficult time for my sister and I because she was our only parent. I was grieving as I did my exams, but I soldiered on,” he says.
Ochieng is among 92 scholars from the Equity Leadership Programme (ELP).
The programme comprises Wings to Fly alumni beneficiaries, as well as those who topped in the 2019 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination in their respective sub counties, who have received admission to 43 global universities.
The 43 institutions are spread across five continents in different countries including the United States, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda and South Africa.
Of the 92, 19 scholars have been admitted to Ivy League Universities in the United States including Yale (two), Harvard (four), University of Pennsylvania (three), Princeton (three), Cornell (one), Dartmouth (two), Columbia (two) and Brown (two).
Ann Kinanu, will be joining African Leadership University (ALU) in Mauritius.
Kinanu was brought up by a single mother and went to Nkuene Girls High School in Meru.
Kinanu who joined the ELP in 2015, proceeded to Pwani University to pursue Hospital Tourism Management, but had to drop out after her mother fell ill and she had to look for a job to take care of her. The bank employed her on contract.
The desire to further her studies still tugged at her heart and when she got the chance, she sent applications to five universities.
“I had been called to several universities in the United States, but I chose ALU because I was inspired by the school’s alumni and I also wished to take part in contributing to Africa’s leadership agenda. I want to make a difference,” she says.
Kinanu is already a leader in her own right. She has been running Beauty with a Purpose initiative, that is engaged in the fight against Gender-Based Violence and conducting peace and menstrual health campaigns.
She was part of Thirdway Alliance Leader, Ekuru Aukot’s Presidential campaign team in 2017, where she worked as the personal assistant to his running mate-Emmanuel Nzai and has previously worked as musician Esther Akoth-popularly known as Akothee’s manager.
Kinanu, who looks up to exemplary black women leaders such as Michelle Obama and Graca Machel, also runs a modelling school.
David Njoroge from Kiserian who was raised by his mother hopes to work in the finance industry once he concludes his study tour at Amherst College, US.
“My mother is my role model. I watched her work so hard to provide a good life for my brothers and this motivated me to work hard. I also look up to tennis player, Rogers Federer,” he says.
ELP offers paid internship to top performing secondary school scholars including Wings to Fly alumni beneficiaries.
The program aims to educate, provide mentorship and exposure to Kenyan youth and create a generation of value-based leaders, who bring about positive change in the community, by driving sustainable economic growth and social progress in Kenya and globally.
Maxwell Ojiambo, a Wings to Fly alumnus and an ELP scholar who is set to join Stanford University to pursue electrical engineering says: “My experience in Wings to Fly and ELP has taught me that tough times don’t last forever.
Equity took a chance on me and they turned me into a promising young man with big dreams and a great vision for the future. I am truly grateful for the experience.”