Bridge alumnus, Grace Kerubo, has always wanted to be a doctor. At primary school in Kisii, the dream seemed unlikely. Yet, as she starts her university education at Amherst College, her dream is well within reach.
At the age of nine, Grace was at risk of ending her education.
Her parents realized that she was not learning anything in the school she was attending and her teacher had become increasingly frustrated labelling her a ‘slow learner.’
In communities like Grace’s, girls often do not finish their primary school education and get swept into domestic roles through motherhood and marriage.
Her mother, however, wanted to be sure that it wasn’t the school that was failing before giving up on her child.
Her mum is a teacher and has always been a firm advocate of education but as a teacher in a public school, she understands the very real challenges faced by schools and children around resources and overcrowding.
She had a look at the options in her local community and came across Bridge Mwembe Academy, where she decided to enroll her daughter.
Grace had never enjoyed school and had believed what she had been told, that she wasn't a good student. The first few weeks at Bridge, Grace was indeed behind her peers but despite what she had been told she quickly caught up and even started overtaking her classmates.
Grace was as surprised by the changes as anyone else. Looking back, she says; “Bridge changed the way I studied because of the way they taught. I understood the lessons better because I had teachers who paid a lot of attention to my work. The environment was so friendly that I wasn't afraid to make mistakes or to try.”
Her mum couldn't believe the changes that she saw in her daughter in just one term. She had been considering how Grace’s life would be if she left school but all of a sudden, her vision for the future of her daughter changed.
She says that; “My daughter had great teachers at Bridge. As a teacher, I know the struggles. These teachers worked with her to help her thrive; and they interacted well with the parents bringing them into school life.”
Grace decided early on that she wanted to be a doctor, she really enjoyed the math and science lessons and wanted to do something that would be useful in her community.
By the end of primary school, Grace was recognized as an excellent student. Her classmates admired her work ethic and her teachers were rewarded by her success.
As school came to an end, Grace sat the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), the national exit exam.
She excelled achieving 400 out of 500 marks; placing her among the top students in the country. She had hoped to do well but this was beyond her expectations.
Remembering only a few years previously when she was going to leave primary school altogether, she now turned her thoughts to secondary school and the options available to her.
Thanks to her score, her teachers suggested she apply for a scholarship in the US that was available.
It was a big decision, but with the support of her family and the encouragement of her teachers, Grace applied and was awarded a full four-year scholarship at the prestigious St. Andrews High School in Florida, USA.
Grace had only been at St. Andrews for one and half months when she knew that the opportunity was one-in-a-million; “St. Andrews is a big and really prestigious school; so different to anything I had known before. I had access to things that I never had previously had access to, even basic things like having my first laptop was a big moment.
As an international student who had never been to another country, I felt nervous but welcomed. The studies were really advanced, and I knew that I was going to have to work hard to compete and do well.”
However, Grace had no need to worry, she was an exceptional student. She’d been well taught.
Over the next four years, her exemplary academic record continued and she received school awards for outstanding achievement.
Outside of the classroom, she was busy with numerous co-curricular activities, involving herself in the bowling society, wildlife and conservation programmes and the theatre society - even playing the lead role in St Andrew’s production of Our Town.
Overall, she loved St Andrews, “despite the big weather difference to home, I couldn’t have asked for better!”.
As her time at high school came to an end, she started to consider university with the help of her teachers and Bridge. There were options at home, but she was keen to stay in the US.
After some thought she applied for a scholarship at Amherst and was accepted. She took up her place in September 2020.
As a freshman, Grace finds university life challenging yet, ‘amazing’. She reported to university a week before classes started in time to get used to her new surroundings.
As a result of COVID-19, all her classes have been online. Grace and everyone else at the University have been taking the necessary precautions and she’s been pleased by how thoughtful and supportive everyone has been. She’s met people from all over the world, including Kenya!
Of Amherst, she says that “There’s a great academic environment with small classes and professors that are fully engaged - it reminds me of home! It’s a small town, but with the five college consortiums, there is always lots to do.” Grace’s courses have challenged her: “Getting adjusted to the course load has been something to get used to but it has also made learning so interesting and fun.”
Above all, Grace is relishing the chance to pursue her original dream of becoming a doctor but now she is taking it one stage further! She is planning to embark on pre-med courses with a potential neuroscience major: “I am currently keeping myself on a pre-medicine track with hopes of eventually going to medical school and pursuing the career I have always aspired to and dreamt of.”
Grace has kind words for her primary school. “Bridge has played a huge role in my life. They gave me my foundation; helped me through the application process to high school and even while in high school in the US, they were my host; my guardians; my biggest supporters.”
Grace’s story is inspirational and her journey is one that millions of children dream of.
There are millions of girls like Grace who might never finish primary school, not because they are not gifted or skilled or able, but because the opportunity to succeed never comes their way. It could be so different.
Grace will grasp all the opportunities she has been given. She is very excited for what is ahead and can’t wait to make the most out of it.