8th Grade

Do you member 8th grade? I was at Dublin Junior High School, on the cheerleading squad and in a competitive dance company, and starting to be interested in boys. I think that’s when I realized I was good at math – I took Algebra that year and enjoyed it. I turned 14, and my Dad was teaching me to drive a pickup truck on our farm. Aside from those memories, I think it was, for the most part, an insignificant year.
For a Kenyan student, 8th grade is a very significant year.
As I’ve mentioned before, at the end of 8th grade (“Class 8” as they call it here), Kenyan students take the KCPE to determine if and what high school they will attend. For our students at New Hope Academy, the goal is to make at least a 250 on the exam. If they make 250 or higher, New Hope Initiative will sponsor them for high school. Currently, about half of our high school students are in a day school in Nairobi and the other half in boarding schools up country. Boarding school is preferred by students and their parents, but the student must score even higher on their exam to qualify for boarding school.
Students that score below 250 have limited opportunities. All schools in Kenya require school fees – even the government schools – and most of our students’ parents cannot afford these school fees. Even if their parent can afford the school fees, the lower scoring student is limited to poor quality, crowded high schools. There are some technical schools like Seed of Hope that work to catch these students from slipping through the gap and train them with professional skills in hopes they can find a job. Unfortunately, there are not enough of these schools to fill the need.
I am happy to tell you that 77% of our Class 8 students at New Hope Academy made 250 or higher! Ultimately, our goal is 100% pass, and I am hopeful that we will accomplish that goal in under 5 years. Please pray for our students. That they would be diligent in their work and that they would be good learners. Pray also for our next Class 8 students as they prepare for the KCPE. If you want to help give these students a high school education, please check out New Hope’s Penda Project.
This is Maxwell. He is New Hope Academy's highest scoring student on the KCPE. He has received a government scholarship to go to one of the top schools in Kenya!

This is Maxwell. He is New Hope Academy’s highest scoring student on the KCPE. He has received a government scholarship to go to one of the top schools in Kenya!


In preparing to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, my friends and I have started hiking the hills in Kenya. Last Saturday, we hiked Mt Longonot. Longonot is an hour drive from Nairobi along the eastern escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. It is a doormat volcano thought to have last erupted in the mid 1800s. From the bottom, it is beautiful. From the top, breathtaking. It took us about an hour to get to the rim then almost three hours to walk around the crater. Only stopping for short snacks and to take in the view, we completed the hike in 4.5 hours.
Until yesterday, it had not rained since Christmas Eve. You can imagine how dirty we were with all the loose gravel and dust we stirred up hiking. The hot shower and sushi for dinner was a nice way to end a perfect Saturday.
View from highest point of Mt Longonot

View from highest point of Mt Longonot

New Year’s Resolutions

Wow, it’s been over a month since I posted. I guess I should add consistent blogging to my New Year’s resolutions. Since arriving back in Nairobi on January 4th, I’ve jumped right back into work and reconnected with my coworkers and friends here. It’s been nice to sleep in the same bed after sleeping in 9 different beds while home for the holidays.
As I’ve planned for the upcoming months, there are two major goals that I want to accomplish before I head back to the States in August.
  1. Finish my NHI Work Plan
  2. Climb Mt Kilimanjaro

There are other things on my “list of things to do while living in Africa”, but those are the big ones. As I work towards these goals, I’ll try to keep you updated weekly on the blog. For now, I’ll leave you with one of the first and latest photos of my little friend, Steven. What a difference New Hope Academy makes! Photo credits go to Karen Baird.

Steven in July 2014 / Steven in January 2015

Steven in July 2014 / Steven in January 2015