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Local

Attend a night of culture in DeKalb, send a child to school

Nelle Conley holds up two different ukuleles in front of her students inside of a classroom at Jane Adeny Memorial School for Girls in Muhoroni, Kenya.
Nelle Conley holds up two different ukuleles in front of her students inside of a classroom at Jane Adeny Memorial School for Girls in Muhoroni, Kenya.

DeKALB – A lot of Kenyan girls have the intelligence, tenacity and desire to power through the difficulties of high school but cannot afford to attend. With an event Friday, DeKalb residents can impact those girls’ lives on the other side of the world.

Teresa Wasonga, professor of educational leadership at Northern Illinois University and co-founder of Jane Adeny Memorial School for Girls, said those who pay to go to the event or pay to sponsor a teenager to go to JAMS near Muhoroni in rural, western Kenya, can help multiple generations by attending an event that features Kenyan food and music

The event is from 6 to 9 p.m, Friday at Faranda’s Banquet Hall. Proceeds will go to help to fund the high school.

“Just imagine there are so many girls where high school is not even a possibility,” she said. “These kids are begging to go to high school. These girls give you everything they’ve got.”

The program already has had some success stories.

Linnet Awuor Magina, a JAMS student who will graduate in December, may never have gone to a university if the JAMS did not exist, Wasonga said. Magina grew up impoverished in Kenya. Wasonga said Magina’s mother’s house had holes in the walls and windows and no food.

“But now she’ll be a high school teacher,” Wasonga said. “She’s going to make a difference in her mother’s life, her sibling’s life, all these girls’ lives.”

She said in the U.S., school is rather difficult for students from poor backgrounds, but in Kenya it’s the opposite.

“It’s the poor who go to school,” Wasonga said. “They’re the ones who go to school because it’s their only way out. The poor students are the ones at the top of the class.”

Students also have used skills learned from the school to further their education, even if there was a bit of a delay.

Caren Awino Opondo, a 2014 graduate of JAMS, did well enough to go to a university but not well enough to get government assistance to pay for university. Instead, she went to work for herself with the entrepreneurial skills she learned at JAMS.

She opened a small bread shop. She made enough money after four years of making and selling bread that she is putting herself through college.

“If she didn’t have those skills, she would have given up,” Wasonga said.

Those who attend the dinner also will meet volunteers who have first-hand stories to tell of their times at the school.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to providing scholarships and extracurricular activities for the students, as well as facility improvements – including an expanded library and a new computer lab with internet.

The goal is to raise at least enough money for 20 new $800 scholarships for the class of 2023. Those students will enter JAMS in January. Diana Swanson, president of JAMS, said 74 scholarships have been paid for and 115 of the 150 tickets have been purchased.

The school will accept donations of any value, but those who donate either $400 or $800 will receive letters and grade reports from their students, the JAMS website states.

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