2 Kenyan students attend Portola Valley boarding school for 3 weeks

WOODSIDE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area nonprofit that created a school for girls in East Africa invited two of those students to go to school in the Bay Area for a short time. They are determined to become leaders in Kenya.

The young Kenyan women attended Woodside Priory in Portola Valley for three weeks.

The two girls attend the tuition-free Daraja Academy, a boarding school near Nairobi, Kenya. Daraja means bridge and it was founded by Jason and Jenni Doherty, a San Rafael couple.

The girls are from 18 different tribes in East Africa. They go to school together, live on the campus and are learning to be leaders.

Two of those students came to America for the first time to attend the Priory Boarding School in Portola Valley for three weeks. They were welcomed by other students who acted as ambassadors.

Abdia Osman and Alice Naini already know what they want to do with their lives, even before they graduate.

"The poor girls are denied their rights. They are discriminated against and I want to go and raise their voices," Naini said.

"I would like to be a journalist, just like you," said Abdia Osman.

Their principal Victoria Gichuhi came with the girls. She says students at Daraja are highly motivated, in spite of their circumstances.

"Some girls do not have parents. Others have parents, but they are so poor, to the point where they don't have a job and have to be away from their children to find money," Gichuhi said.

"We provide a four year scholarship and then when they leave our program, they've had leadership training, empowerment and life skills training and they exit our program being prepped for college, career and community," Jenni Doherty said.

"I fell in love with East Africa," said Jason Doherty.

Jason Doherty, a California high school teacher and football coach, convinced his wife to start a school in Kenya. They asked the Kenyan government for guidance.

"It was clearly high school specifically for girls in poverty," he said.

Daraja students are among the lucky ones. Only 30 girls are selected each year.

Deborah Santana, founder of the Marin County Charity, Do a Little, went to Kenya to see the program within six months of learning about it in 2009 and has sponsored six girls every year.

"It takes about $2,500 to educate a girl for one year at Daraja Academy," said Deborah Santana. "That's one of my foundation's goals, is to educate girls around the world."

Osman and Naini are learning about American education and building relationships.

"To see these very successful girls, who are very friendly and are just great women, I think it says a lot to our kids, about how kids are around the world," said Tim Molak, head of Woodside Priory.

"In my community, some people are homeless and I would like to build homes for them," Alice said.

"I want to show people it's not all about killing each other, or destroying each other, but it's more of unity and loving each other,"

Daraja Academy would like to expand to include more girls. There is a fundraiser Sunday, May 3 in Berkeley. Click here for more information.
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