A celebratory feeling buzzes through the air on WISER’s campus all morning, long before the first guests walk through the gate. Everyone is eager for day’s events—and for good reason, it is WISER’s second-ever Alumni Mentorship Day!
WISER alums are equally excited for this homecoming. Dozens of young professionally dressed women flow through the front gates and onto the campus that was so pivotal in their educational and personal development. Mercy Adhiambo, a 2014 WISER graduate who has just completed her degree in computer science, beamed as she declared, “It’s just a big day and a very important day and I’m just very happy.”
Of all things, Mercy is most eager to visit her teachers. “It’s an encouraging thing for the teachers,” she explains. Mercy knows it’s motivating for WISER faculty to see students they’ve taught come back as successful, confident women.
But this isn’t just about the WISER teachers and the alumni they taught and mentored through the years.
“We have come to WISER to say thank you and also to encourage other girls,” explains Mercy. Despite many WISER alumni having hectic schedules at university, the group feels a special sense of responsibility to support the current WISER students. “We are examples. We didn’t have those people ahead of us to tell us what to do. So, we come to encourage the girls and also to just thank WISER for what they have done for us.”
Margaret, from WISER’s first graduating class one year above Mercy, agrees about the importance of their role as WISER alums. The moment she gets back to WISER, Margaret is looking for ways to advise girls for what lies further down the road. “It gives them a glimpse of what is ahead. Life nowadays is not very easy, there is much struggle, but if they keep on pushing, they will be able to make it!”
Another visiting WISER alumna, Trizer, knows that life can present a number of challenges. She’s proud to be back at WISER for the second Alumni Mentorship Day, and she’s proud to be juggling life as both a student pursuing a business management degree and a mother of a little girl. While bouncing her cooing nine month old daughter, Trizer explains why this day means so much to her. “WISER has helped mold us into strong, independent women – and life outside is very hard,” she says. “From WISER we have learned how to solve solutions on our own. WISER has opened our minds and thinking capacity.” These alumni know that being independent women in rural Kenya is not something to take for granted. Their education affords them a new stature in the community now. “In the village they look at you in a different picture. So, if any problem is arising you’re given the chance to give a solution.”
Throughout the day, WISER alumni like Mercy, Margaret, and Trizer are given the opportunity to network with one another, seek advice and mentorship from their former teachers, and, of course, to share experiences with the current WISER girls. For many WISER girls, this offers invaluable access to firsthand information on what life is like for girls who graduate secondary school, who attend university, who lead within their families, and who enter the workforce. Circles of students surround the visiting alumni, eager to catch bits of wisdom – and the alumni happily oblige.
Of course, the alumni are given plenty of opportunities to learn during the event as well. For the first time, WISER offered special education field mentoring sessions for those alumni who have gone on to become teachers themselves. For young educators looking for advice on classroom presence, pedagogy, and student management, what better experts could you have than the WISER teachers? These alumni were treated to additional one-on-one mentoring time as well as opportunities to meet with their fellow alumni-turned-teachers to share advice and networking opportunities.
Overall, WISER’s second Alumni Mentorship Day was a joyful celebration of changes: changes that have taken place from the first graduating class to now, changes in the campus and the student population, and changes in what seems possible for a girl in Muhuru Bay. It was once thought that girls were not worth educating. But surrounded by nearly 100 WISER alumni who are out in the world making an impact on their communities, it’s safe to say that thought has changed, too.