“I never imagined that I’d have to write and impress people!”

Jackline Nekesa was orphaned when she was just a year old. Despite having an aunt take her on, their limited means put Jackline at a disadvantage when it came to school.

Though smart and eager to learn, fighting for the right to stay in class was a struggle. Once, a sponsorship of hers fell through and she was sent home. But after 2 months away, she returned to school asking to be let back in. It was the moment she heard about students applying for scholarships. “I talked to the secretary and she told me that I had to write a letter. I never imagined that I’d have to write and impress people!” And it wasn’t long before applicants were called in for interviews.

“I remember that time, I was in Form 3. I was on break when I heard another student calling me to go to the office. Then I saw the same car that was outside during interviews and I knew. I was told that I was the one who had won the scholarship and that I had to work hard to get to university.”

Not a Cakewalk

Though Jackline worked hard, she fell short of getting a B, which is the passing mark to get to university. Despite this latest setback, she never lost hope.

In 2012, Asante Africa collaborated with Khan Academy to translate secondary mathematics material from English to Swahili. A turning point for Jackline’s confidence levels. “Imagine, I got friends from the US who were calling me to congratulate me for doing a good job. That’s when I started to feel that my contributions had worth.”

Against All Odds

Jackline with her son

Then, a surprise pregnancy and marriage. An entirely new path that meant even more time away from continued education. “I went through a lot. I couldn’t find a job, but through determination and hard work, this is where I am today.” Jackline, with 2 young boys of her own to take care of now, has worked her way into owning a small café near a motorbike stage in Kenya.

The thing that she thinks helped her the most? “I owe a lot to Asante Africa’s leadership and entrepreneurship training. They equipped me with skills that allow me to do business today,” she says. Further, “it helped develop my ability to stand in front of people and talk. I was shy and couldn’t express myself well. But these days, I even teach students when time allows.”

Youth of the Future

“I got a scholarship from Mastercard Foundation, learning the skills to thrive in the hospitality industry. Someday, I want to own a big business — maybe a big hotel that will give me the savings to start a school and a safe space for orphans, so that they don’t have to struggle to get an education like I did.”

Watch below to hear more about Jackline’s life lessons!

100 youth will attend the LEI summit this year, and we are raising money to create these future change agents. You too can be a part of it. What’s even better is that all donations up to August 31st will be matched 1:1. Click here to know more.