“My fellow graduates, the world is eagerly expecting you. It’s waiting for you with a big hug. It is waiting for you to change it.” —Velma, Valedictorian, Daraja Academy Class of 2017, during her graduation speech
On May 4, 2018, the twenty-six students of the Class of 2017 graduated from Daraja Academy. In addition to four years of secondary school, each graduate completed the 4-month Transition Program, which includes mentorship, career and life skills training, and an off-site internship. Teacher Carol, who directs the Transition Program, was delighted to report that “all the girls, all twenty-six of them” were accepted into higher education. Graduates received a Daraja Academy diploma and wore sashes to celebrate their progression to college and university.
The night before graduation, the students spoke about how their lives have changed since they arrived at Daraja — the difference between how they felt five years ago when they doubted they’d even attend secondary school, and how they feel now as they head off to university. “When we came here, we were like balloons, not yet inflated. But now, we are inflated, and we are going to fly higher than we ever imagined,” said Edith, who hopes to become a journalist and has completed an internship at Qwetu Radio. “When I first came [to Daraja], I was so tiny,” said Susane, who will be studying fashion design at Kenya Coastal Polytechnic. “With Daraja’s support, I am this huge — not just physically, but also empowered. I feel like I’m going to explode, there’s so much I need to share out there.”
Many family members were on campus for graduation to celebrate the achievements of their daughters. “I’m so thankful, full of gratitude,” said Mama Abdia (Abdia’s mother), overwhelmed with emotion. “My daughter would never have made it this far without Daraja.” (Read more about The Women Who Raise Daraja Girls). While Abdia’s progress was supported by Daraja, her impressive achievements are her own. She will be attending Moi University to pursue a bachelor’s in business management, as she hopes to become an auditor. “I said last week that I wasn’t yet ready to go, but the good news is that I am ready now,” she said.
Indeed, Abdia and the Class of 2017 have reached the far side of the bridge. While it’s bittersweet to see a part of the Daraja family leave campus, they have outgrown their uniform shoes. They’ve become Daraja alumni, equipped with the tools and passion to change their world. “We are sending women into the world — critical thinkers, decision makers, women of integrity, strength, and hope,” said Teacher Carol during the graduation ceremony.
To the powerful women of the Daraja Class of 2017 — congratulations on your graduation! We can’t wait to see what you do next.