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Bridge International Academies: Two Kenyan students beat odds to excel in New York university

Bridge International Academies alumna Joyce Katana during her graduation ceremony.

This is the tale of two initially disadvantaged pupils, Peace Kiponda and Joyce Katana who, against all odds, overcame their limitations, secured scholarships, and embarked on new lives in New York.

Picture a life hemmed in by the confines of a single region, never daring to venture beyond the familiarity of your own community. Imagine battling a kidney ailment coupled with the weight of financial constraints, uncertain where your next meal might come from.

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Then, one day, a ray of light shines through. An unexpected opportunity emerges – fully-funded scholarships open doors to distant lands for the pursuit of education.

These remarkable journeys belong to former Bridge International Academy pupils, Joyce Katana and Peace Kiponda.

Former Bridge International Academies’ pupils, Peace Kiponda and Joyce Katana, celebrate their graduation in style

Joyce Katana and Peace Kiponda share tales of humble beginnings from the calm, tranquil landscapes of Kilifi and Kwale Counties along the Kenyan coast.

Peace, born to a pastor, struggled with the constraints of a local school that had infrequent teacher presence. It wasn’t until sixth grade that his father realized his son was not learning and decided to transfer him to a different school. The school was Bridge Shanzu in Mombasa County.

At the new school, everything changed for him. “Bridge International Academies was a haven of joy and enlightenment,” he recalls, his voice tinged with nostalgia. Peace remembers it as a fun place to learn.

The teachers were kind and understood him. Before, he did not really like Mathematics, thinking he was not good at it. But his new teachers gave him confidence.

In his old school, he would only get half the answers right, but at Bridge, getting 90% right became the norm. In his first big test at Bridge, Peace got a score of 380 marks! He could not believe how well he had performed.

Education, as Peace underscores, is not merely about alphabets and numerals. A proper education sets children up to grow personally, professionally and socially.

It awakens joy, curiosity to learn and a deep desire to solve problems and help others. Education broadens a child’s horizon, helps them gain knowledge and skills needed to become a better person and to understand the corners of the world beyond the school doors.

He sat for his KCPE exam in 2015, performed exceptionally well and with the help of Bridge International Academies, he won a scholarship to study at Avenues The World School in New York. Peace’s main challenge while there was adapting to a new environment and socializing with people from different cultures at first.

Former Bridge International Academies pupil Peace Kiponda in his younger years before securing a scholarship to US suffered many challenges, financial, educational, and health wise, defying all odds.

“When I got to New York, it felt like I was in a whole different world. The furthest I had been was my hometown in Mombasa County but here I was with people from different parts of the world. With time however, I used the skills that I had acquired while at Bridge to communicate and within no time I made so many friends,” he says.

He later graduated and yet again received a scholarship to join Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, New York. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Minor in Data Analytics.

“I’m excited to see what the future holds for me. Education has carried me across vast seas, introducing me to souls from all walks of life. Upon graduation, I’ll return to my alma mater and share my story—encourage young hearts to believe in their potential.”

Joyce Katana’s journey parallels Peace’s. Born and raised in Kwale County, her early school days were equally challenging. Instead of focused learning, children often spent their time playing.

However, a pivotal change occurred when her parents made the decision to enroll her in Bridge Owino Ouru in Mombasa County, where her educational prospects took a turn for the better. Here, dedicated teachers played a crucial role, particularly in nurturing her writing skills.

Joyce Katana, a former Bridge International Academies pupil, embarked on an extraordinary journey from humble coastal origins in Kenya to a life-transforming sponsorship that allowed her to study abroad in the U.S.

While at Bridge, her greatest prayer was to win a scholarship to study abroad, and her prayers were answered. She did well in the KCPE exams and soon after won a scholarship to Avenues The World School in New York City, when she was only 14 years old.

“I had only heard of New York City in movies, magazines and newspapers. I was really shocked at how many people were there, the largest number of people I had seen in my whole life,” she remarks.

Her biggest challenge was making friends, but she was able to overcome it. “Apart from the learning, Bridge also played a huge role because it pushes its students to be involved in the classroom which was really helpful at the Avenues The World School where you’re expected to participate in class,” she adds.

Joyce later graduated from high school which was a big and proud moment for her after four years of learning in New York. She is currently a student at Kenyon College hoping to pursue a major in International Business or International Relations.

While Joyce was back in Kenya over the summer, she visited her old Bridge school to speak to the current pupils. She wanted to inspire them to chase their dreams.

“My advice for other students is to wake up every day with a goal, because dreams need goals to come true. I’m amazed by my journey, from my small home in Kenya to New York and now to a College in America. I’m excited to see what’s next and plan to make the most of my time at Kenyon College,” beams Joyce.

In the extraordinary stories of Peace Kiponda and Joyce Katana, we find the resounding testament to the transformative power of education. Their stories serve as a vivid reminder that education is the key to unlocking doors, erasing boundaries, and unearthing opportunities beyond our wildest dreams.

With each step they took, they illustrated how dedication, determination, and access to quality education can rewrite destinies, bridging the chasm between humble beginnings and the pursuit of lofty aspirations.

As their journeys continue to unfold on the international stage, we are left with a profound understanding that education is the beacon guiding us towards brighter tomorrows, reminding us that dreams, when fueled by knowledge and tenacity, know no bounds, and can be pursued with unwavering conviction.

Peace and Joyce are living proof that the pursuit of education not only reshapes individual lives but also has the potential to reshape the world.

Their stories inspire us all to believe in the limitless possibilities that education can offer and to keep the flame of aspiration alive in the hearts of future generations.












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