These 25 BPLK scholars, from the most impoverished areas of Nairobi, volunteered to spend the first week of their school holidays engaged in conversations about growth mindset, project planning, essential questions, and preparing for internships by role playing how to act in an internship and by writing elevator speeches. At the end of the week, students reflected on what they learned. One student’s comments exemplified what most students said:
I learned how we can solve the problems in our society or community. We should educate our members in communities about the importance of having unity in our society and this will help us to achieve our goals. I understand that we can work and sort out the problems that are facing us. Last but not least, I learned that it is good to try in each and everything that we see is hard.
It was clear that these students had grown in just that short week and were ready for their Learning Through Internship (LTI) experiences. They were truly thinking about their future and ways Big Picture could help connect them to people and options for a positive future.
The world the Kenyan students come from is far different from my world in Massachusetts and yet, in many ways, Kenyan students were not unlike my Leominster students. In Kenya students are not guaranteed a secondary school education, as entrance to secondary school is determined by an exam. Public secondary schooling is sub-par and costs money. Pedagogy most often demands rote learning and does not encourage questioning or student agency. This became clear when we discussed essential questions and students struggled to find their voice in questioning. In a video call with Leominster, the Kenyan students noticed the American students were not wearing uniforms, had coffee in the classroom, and were sitting informally on the tables (in fairness the call did happen before the school day in Leominster started). Despite some of these differences, the similarities were striking as well. They all love music, talking with their friends, social media, and they certainly can’t get enough of selfies! Much like Leominster students, the Kenyan scholars were anxious about starting internships, worried they might be bored or might not know what to do in the work place. They were also excited to venture into a new realm and learn from a mentor. They think deeply about the world around them. The students from Massachusetts and Nairobi share a cautious optimism, with big dreams and hopes that Big Picture can help them access opportunities they may not otherwise have.