Education is one of the most empowering things one can offer young people. A lot of us are where we are because our parents and guardians were able to give us a decent enough education to be able to venture out into the world and make something of ourselves.

There are those who are not in this position and it is good to see corporates step in to give them a stepping stone. My all time favourite and wholesome CSR initiative is what Equity bank does to under privileged learners from all over the country.

As the initiative matches on touching more and more lives, fifty six Equity Leaders Program (ELP) scholars have been admitted to various top tier universities this year.  The 2019 class brings the total number of ELP scholars studying or are alumni of top global universities to 519, sponsored at a cumulative value USD 120M (Ksh12 Billion).

Of this year’s 56 admissions, 17 are alumni of the Wings to Fly program who scored Grade A, while the rest were the top students in their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams in their respective sub counties who are annually enrolled into the Equity Leadership Program.

The 2019 cohort will be joining universities in the United States, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, Rwanda, Hungary, Canada and Slovakia. They are joining diverse top tier universities including Harvard (3), Cornell (1), Princeton (2), University of Pennsylvania (2), Massachusetts Institute of Technology -MIT (2), Amherst (1), and John Hopkins (1).

Speaking during the send-off ceremony in Nairobi, Equity Group CEO and Executive Chairman of Equity Group Foundation, Dr. James Mwangi, advised the scholars to focus on academics, leadership training, networking and global transformational exposure and excel in their respective specialties.

“In the course of this journey, you will encounter challenges like language barriers and cultural differences. I encourage you to overcome these difficulties and embrace the new environment with courage and open-mindedness. Your host community, Equity Group, the local community as well as your parents are supporting you and expecting a lot from you. I am confident that you will make all of us proud,” said Dr. Mwangi.

“The objective is to develop you, as a generation of servant leaders who will think globally; are inspired to fight poverty and the challenges on our continent; embrace sustainable development; improve our living standards and give back to society,” added Dr. Mwangi.

Some of the scholars expressed their gratitude for what the program has been able to do for them. Apart from admission into prestigious universities, the students each received a stipend of between Kshs 100,000 – 200,000 to cater for air tickets and shopping.

Christine Njeri, who is headed to MIT said, “I was a kid who had been raised in a slum where literally no one recognized who I was. When the Wings to Fly Program sponsored me, I was challenged to work hard and I did well in high school. I joined the Equity Leaders Program thereafter and the resilience, mentorship and leadership journey I was taken through by the program has prepared me for where I’m headed. This is all because someone took a chance on me and I am grateful to Equity and its partners in the ELP program.”

Another scholar, Samuel Gari, headed to Princeton University said, “My dream to create sustainable energy and waste management in Kenya is still alive thanks to this program that has really guided and encouraged me. I’m happy to be joining Princeton this fall, where I’m certain I will get the skills to fulfill my dream thanks to the mentorship I derived from the ELP program.”

Started in 1998, ELP admits the top performing boy and girl in the KCSE exams from each sub county in Kenya andWings to Fly scholars who score “A” in the national exams. The program aims at empowering young academically gifted scholars by supporting their access to education in public universities in Kenya and around the globe, as well as equipping them with leadership skills.

To date, ELP has benefited 14,529 scholars who are currently studying both locally and abroad or are alumni of various universities.  ELP scholars have distinguished themselves as mentors and role models to secondary school students during their semester breaks to inspire and encourage students to aim at academic excellence. They also take leadership positions in their universities and in their communities where they participate in decision making.

ELP global scholars usually return to Kenya from their universities abroad during their summer holidays to team up with their colleagues in local universities and spend their time mentoring the incoming ELP scholars on how to apply for college admissions, as well as preparing them for life in universities locally or abroad.

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