This is not a normal Daraja Academy update for me. In all honesty as the school has grown, I have written fewer and fewer updates for the website, even though it is something I truly love. However, after reflecting on the events of November 20th, 2012, I feel a deep need to do just that.

One week ago Daraja’s pioneer class completed three weeks of grueling tests and in doing so, four years of secondary school. These 25 young ladies have set a standard of excellence, not only for future classes at Daraja Academy, but also for every person who has gotten the chance to know them personally. They have worked so hard. They have grown physically and emotionally, taking risks culturally as well as with their hearts.

And there I sat at dinner, after they had taken their tests and before they embarked upon their post-secondary school lives, I watched each of them stand and express what their Daraja experience has meant to them. I watched an incredible team of supporters, made up of teachers, garden workers, cooks and more – smiling and nodding in agreement, aware and caring for each young woman. As I watched the tears well up, it occurred to me what exactly the magic of Daraja is…

Four years ago 25 interviews were conducted across Kenya. 25 girls that had just finished their primary school education, who deeply wanted to continue their schooling but simply did not have the support to do so… and they gained support.

Over four years a web of support grew, and it grew faster than anyone could have expected. Sponsors from Northern California to New York took personal interest in the student’s lives and stayed in constant communication with them as they grew both inside and outside of the classroom. Grandmothers and granddaughters made crafts, sisters created Daraja-specific giving circles, while high school Daraja clubs held concerts and informational fundraisers.

The support for this pioneer class was not just an international phenomenon. As people around Kenya began to learn about Daraja Academy, a following of supporters grew nationally as well. Nothing demonstrated the support behind the girl’s success better than “prayer day”. Held two weeks earlier, mainly for friends and family, three area chiefs and the District Educational Officer chose to attend Daraja’s small gathering rather than dozens held at other schools. Amazingly, two Olympic medalists and a world record holder also drove the 4 hours from Nairobi to lend their love.

The 12 kilometer world record holder Lineth Chepkurui has been a staunch supporter of Daraja Academy since the 2011 Bay to Breakers and she spread her “Daraja Fever” to a few of her friends. 1