First WISER Alum to Attend US University Reflects on Her Graduation

Diana Achieng Okeyo was a student in WISER’s first graduating class in 2013. During that final school year for Diana, the WISER team had the chance to sit down with her as she explained that WISER had enabled her to “have big dreams.”

True to her word, Diana did dream big. And she continues to work hard to achieve those dreams.

This summer, Diana became the first-ever WISER alumna to graduate from a university outside of Kenya when she received her bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University. She currently has an internship in biomedical informatics at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her project focuses on critical lung cancer research; she spends her days sequencing cells and analyzing the data that comes from her lab work. Despite the importance of her work, Diana still finds the joy in it: “It is fun, but difficult. You can’t make any mistakes.”

After her internship, Diana plans to begin a PhD program where she’ll likely narrow her focus to translational biology: applying basic biology through clinical trials in order to enhance techniques and tools to address critical medical needs designed to improve health outcomes.

She’s come a long way from her days growing up in Muhuru Bay.

In her mind, WISER was Diana’s launch pad to where she is now. “I got here because of WISER’s network, because of reaching out and believing…WISER opened up everything for me.”

But of course, none of this would be possible without Diana’s hard work. Being part of WISER’s first class, she and her fellow students worked tirelessly to put WISER on the map. “Our class opened up the community’s perspective on girls’ education. I’m glad we gave them the best we could, so WISER could send an even better percentage of girls onto university.” 

When she was still a Form 4 (her final year) at WISER, Diana notably earned the second highest score of all the girls in the district-wide benchmark exams. Yet, when Diana went back to Muhuru Bay and attended a WISER graduation back in 2017, she said that class performed even better than hers had. The girls scored higher marks as a group – their grades were improving.

And she saw other big changes; specifically, the community’s perspective about educating a girl. “When I went home, I saw how the community came out [to celebrate the WISER graduates], it shows how they’re supporting a lot.” Diana says that WISER is the best thing that has happened in Muhuru Bay.

But while WISER continues to change and grow in the years since she has left, Diana still has valuable advice to offer to the girls who now follow in her footsteps. “Use your teachers, use your books to be the best you can be.”

Why? Well, from Diana’s perspective, as she prepares to pursue a PhD in Biology, she’s lived through a simple, but powerful lesson: “From WISER, anything can happen.”

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