Bridge Alumna Josephine Nyakundi is one step closer to practising medicine and helping her neighbours, as she embarks upon her university career.
14-year-old Josephine Nyakundi was astonished when she heard that she had been offered a full four-year scholarship to study at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee high school in the United States.
Little did she know that was only the start of her American journey which would see her rise from humble beginnings to an elite US university.
Josephine grew up in Rongai, Kajiado County. After her oldest sister enrolled in secondary school, it seemed as if the family would have to pin all of their hopes on her success as continuing to educate her siblings seemed out of reach.
Public secondary school is expensive and Josephine’s father – who was working as a driver for a local bank – struggled to meet the cost and support the rest of the family. This is not unusual; many families have to choose between their children when deciding who to educate.
Public schools come with hidden costs and there is often an opportunity cost for families in sending their children to school.
Fortunately, Josephine’s mother had heard about Bridge and after finding out a bit more decided to enrol Josephine and her siblings at Bridge Rongai.
Looking back, Josephine says it was the start of a life-changing journey. Prior to joining Bridge, Josephine changed schools often, partially because of fluctuating tuition fees and partially because of her family circumstances.
When she came to Bridge for the first time in her life, she had teachers in class all day, who were supporting and encouraging, and who were interested in whether she was succeeding in her studies. It was an experience she had never had before.
“Many of my friends at high school in the US say that all their teachers were like this but not in my experience, it was unusual. My teachers helped me improve so much and build more confidence in me than I had before,” she explains.
As a result of her increased confidence, she approached her primary school exit exams – the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) – with hopefulness. Josephine sat the KCPE in 2015, scoring a very impressive 381 marks out of 500.
After the excitement of receiving her score, she started considering secondary school options. She hoped for a place at a national secondary school in Kenya, but then she heard news about a scholarship opportunity for a high school in the US. After discussing it with her teachers and her family she decided to go for it and was amazed to hear that her application had succeeded.
News of her scholarship to study abroad couldn’t have come at a better time. It was a big decision for Josephine and her family.
“The chance to study in a US high school was one of the biggest breaks of my life; it came with many life-changing possibilities for someone like me. It gave me the opportunity to really learn about myself, how to be independent and meet people from every single part of the world! Most importantly, it gave me the chance to have a really great high school education. It was amazing studying at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee High,” says Josephine.
After graduation, Josephine assumed she would return to Kenya and take up a university place nearer to home.
However, when she heard of scholarship opportunities for Universities she decided to try her luck again and lady luck smiled.
Josephine says, “I believe in hard work. And I know I am focused and determined enough when I decide to achieve something. Most importantly, I am down-to-earth and always ready to accept feedback so I can continue to improve.” It worked.
In September this year, Josephine was admitted to Presbyterian College, in South Carolina. She can’t believe it; when she thinks back to her primary school days and walking to school in the alleys of the slum, Presbyterian could be a different world.
Josephine knows that her hard work for four years has paid off handsomely, but also that she has many years more ahead.
At Presbyterian University, she’s embarked on her studies with the goal of achieving her dream of becoming a doctor. She is taking classes that will prepare her to study medicine
“I am focused on becoming a doctor and I’m on a pre-med track in college right now. But, as I learn more I have become more interested in public health and the idea of improving public health systems around the world and opening up the kind of healthcare people can receive.”
Looking back, Josephine is quick to highlight that this has not been an easy journey.
“It all seemed impossible in the middle of my primary years; when my family was having to make tough decisions and my parents were struggling. But what kept me going was hope. I didn’t want to give up.” School has always been important to her.
As Josephine carves out a niche for herself in a land far from home, she holds dear to her heart the sacrifices her parents made to try and change her world for the better.
And as the old saying goes, she wants her parents to know that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“Her message to her teachers at Bridge: “Thank you… You gave me a foundation. That is what made me,” she concludes.