Kakenya’s Dream Gap Year Program

While the idea of taking a gap year has become increasingly popular in the west, Kenya has been ahead of the trend. Here, students have a built-in “gap year” of sorts between high school graduation, which happens in December, and college enrollment the following September. We help our graduates maximize this time through our gap year training program.

Core to our mission at Kakenya’s Dream is to provide vulnerable girls in rural Kenya with a high quality education – a rarity in the communities we serve, where less than 25% of girls complete high school. But our work doesn’t stop at graduation. Our goal is to set girls up for a lifetime of success, which means ensuring they’re supported as they take their first steps into early adulthood.

At Kakenya’s Dream, we utilize the nine-month gap between high school graduation and college enrollment to prepare young women for whatever path they choose, whether that’s pursuing a technical, trade, or university education, or jumping straight into the workforce. 

Most of the girls in our programs are first-generation high school graduates. The majority of their parents work as subsistence farmers and did not complete an elementary education. Having never navigated the traditional workforce or college applications themselves, many parents aren’t able to adequately support their daughters through these critical processes. That’s where we come in. Our gap year programming is designed to address these unique challenges and ensure that the girls in our programs receive the level of support they need to thrive during this important transition period. 

Our gap year programming consists of five key components: higher education applications and scholarships, professional development, internships and volunteer opportunities, personal development, and mentorship. 

Higher Education Applications & Scholarships

The majority of our high school graduates (87%) decide to pursue some form of higher education. College, scholarship, and financial aid applications are often complex and confusing – especially if a student is the first in her family or community to go through the process. 

We utilize a portion of the gap year period to assist college-bound young women with identifying schools and courses of study that align with their career goals and then guide them through the application process. After they’ve been accepted, we help them find and apply for scholarships and financial aid to fund the small portion of their tuition that’s not covered by Kakenya’s Dream and our partners.

Loice, an alumna who recently graduated college and now works as our school librarian at KCE II, said this about her time in the program: “As the first child in the family to go to high school and subsequently college, I grappled with the transition into college. Through the support of Kakenya’s Dream, I underwent pre-university training where I was integrated into college life. Furthermore, it also sponsored my entire education, for which I am very grateful.”

Professional Development

Graduates practice drafting business plans during entrepreneurship course

Beyond academic opportunities, our gap year programing also focuses on professional development and equipping our graduates with knowledge and hard skills they need to succeed in the workforce. To that end, we host a variety of educational workshops throughout their gap year, including financial literacy classes, entrepreneurship courses for those interested in starting their own businesses, and computer trainings to ensure our grads are comfortable with the technology they may need in the workforce.

Internships & Volunteer Opportunities

Graduate Cynthia interning at a local public school

We believe it’s important for young graduates to explore their passions and begin developing their professional networks, so we pair them with local schools and businesses for internships and volunteer opportunities. Some even intern with us at Kakenya’s Dream! This allows them to give back and share their talents with the community while also gaining valuable hands-on work experience. 

Personal Development

At Kakenya’s Dream, we believe that soft skills are every bit as important to a person’s success as hard skills, so we work with our graduates to develop leadership, communication, self advocacy, time management, and problem solving skills. We also encourage civic engagement and environmental consciousness.

Lastly, we provide continuing education on sexual and reproductive health and how to navigate peer pressure and adult relationships. Our graduate Jackline shares, “I first started developing my interpersonal skills during the gap year program…This experience proved invaluable as I transitioned from student life to a professional career after completing my college education.”


Graduate Kakenya (left) returns to campus to catch up with her mentees

The final component of the gap year program is mentorship. Our graduates are paired with young professionals to support them as they navigate early adulthood. In addition to having mentors of their own, our graduates also serve as mentors to younger girls at our elementary, junior high, and high schools.

Having a role model to look up to, especially one who comes from the same marginalized background and has faced many of the same challenges, can be both inspirational and incredibly comforting. On the flip side, having the opportunity to be that comfort and inspiration to someone else has proven to be a very gratifying experience for our graduates. Our graduate Elizabeth shares, “The mentorship programs organized by Kakenya’s Dream have really helped me to realize who I am…I intend to share with my mentees about the importance of honesty and integrity, being trustworthy, and to believe in themselves.”

At Kakenya’s Dream, we know that to truly empower girls and set them up for a lifetime of success, we must do more than simply put them in a classroom. So we designed holistic, wraparound programs like this that nurture and support each girl from childhood to adulthood, because we believe an educated and well-supported girl has the ability to transform her family, community, and the world at large.


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