USD alumnus Jason Doherty ’98 founded Daraja Academy after spending time in Africa as a child and traveling in Tanzania after graduating from USD. Doherty, and his wife Jenni, saw so much need , but they also saw a reservoir of hope. They knew they wanted to live their lives in Africa, and to help those struggling to create better lives for themselves and their families.
Now in its third full year of operation, Daraja Academy continues to keep USD close by. As a partner with Daraja, USD sends School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) master’s students to assist in curriculum development, and has also begun to strengthen its ties with the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ). Daraja Academy’s mission is “to provide a quality secondary education to exceptional Kenyan girls because we believe educated girls can transcend poverty and change the world.” Daraja Academy focuses on educating Kenya’s women because they are the real leaders of their country as mothers, as caregivers, as educators and as beacons of peace.
Karla Alvarez, program officer at the IPJ, accompanied SOLES counseling instructor Peggy Hetherington, and eight masters students studying counseling to Kenya this year to work with the students and staff at Daraja. For Alvarez, the connection was easy — WorldLink.
USD, and IPJ specifically, takes great pride each year in welcoming high school students to campus for WorldLink, a unique program that provides opportunities for youth from the greater San Diego and Baja California regions to meet world leaders and experts. Through WorldLink’s innovative and experiential focus on global education, students learn about issues facing us locally and internationally, and engage in thoughtful discussions about solutions in a forum where their voices are heard and valued.
As part of its recent programmatic expansion, WorldLink worked with a team of SOLES students to develop a workshop for the girls at the Daraja Academy. “We’re excited about the potential of working with more USD graduate students to further develop WorldLink curriculum tools, so that they can practice facilitation skills and see it in action. After 14 years of strengthening local youth leadership, the connection to Daraja and Jason — a former WorldLink student — is a wonderful resource for the local students,” Alvarez said.
SOLES Dean Paula Cordeiro visited Daraja Academy last summer as well, in keeping with her view that every SOLES graduate should spend time abroad before graduating in order to fully understand the impact of the global world we live in.
“Once you walk on to the Daraja campus, you realize that it is unlike any other school you have ever visited,” Cordeiro explained. “It’s a very special secondary school filled with young woman who are inquisitive, motivated, passionate about learning and appreciative of the exceptional educational experience they’re receiving. I really didn’t want to leave, and I knew that SOLES students would feel the same way.”
The girls attend classes that focus on life skills including Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope (WISH) class. This class initially focuses on “empowering students who have been impacted by issues including domestic or sexual abuse, being orphaned by AIDS or the pressure to marry early.” The girls also take a class about grassroots efforts to affect change in their communities and tribal and religious diversity. SOLES students have been influentially in shaping some of the curriculum instituted at Daraja.
“SOLES students want to make a difference in the world by improving learning opportunities for young people,” Cordeiro said. “Daraja is attractive to them because so few young women in developing nations have the opportunity to graduate from high school and Daraja affords this opportunity. SOLES students are ‘edupreneurs’. They want to see social change through education, so Daraja is a great place for them to teach and also to learn.”
— Melissa Wagoner
Photo courtesy of Barbara Rick of Out of the Blue Films