“My favorite part of high school was to study, I spent much of my time in class and that was the best thing I could do,” said Victor, a student in Kenya.
An opportunity few have in the remote villages of Kenya, however this student from Dago, Kenya had the chance thanks to the Bernard and Elsie Weiss Dago Scholarship Fund.
Established by Naperville resident Brett Weiss after he first visited the village in 2009, the fund gives more than just an education.
“The average person only has about four years of school. How in the world are you going to turn around extreme poverty, I mean average family income is less than $2 a day, how can you turn that around without an improvement in education? So as an educator myself I knew I needed to do something to address that, so the scholarship fund is about getting kids to go to high school,” said Weiss.
The first scholarship was given in 2011, and has now grown to include 32 students from Dago. And when a student is selected, they are guaranteed the fund for all four years of high school.
“They’re in school pretty much all year, so what we’re paying for is room and board, books, fees, tuition, everything for four years of high school, it’s about $3,200,” added Weiss. “So $3,200 gets a child the opportunity of a high school education and it totally changes their world, totally.”
But the students aren’t the only ones who are impacted.
“Pretty much nobody had ever gone to high school ever, so we’ve sent 32 kids to high school and four at university. One of the biggest things I see is the village has changed. People are more excited, kids are staying in school longer, parents are excited because they know if the kids if they work hard they have a chance to get a scholarship,” said Weiss.
Since his initial trip, Weiss has returned to Dago several times to check on the students and the village. With each trip he kept detailed journals, which are now in print as the book “Just Give Them a Hug…And The Rest Will Be Easy.”
“The book to me is my sharing my journey and my experiences, it can’t replace being there, but I want you to feel like you’re there with me,” said Weiss.
Sharing tales of knowledge and hope, for the small village of Dago, Kenya.
Available online and at Anderson’s Bookshop here in town, 50 percent of the book’s proceeds will go to the scholarship fund.
Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.
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