I had an amazing experience this summer interning with the Kenya Scholar Athlete Project. This summer was completely different from anything I have done before and I am extremely happy that I took a chance to try something new.
One of my primary goals for the summer was to improve my communication and language skills through my work as a teacher. I had no direct teaching experience before working with KenSAP so I had to learn on the job. Teaching students whose first language is not English made it particularly important to be clear during instruction. Many of the lessons I taught focused on grammar and writing which required me to improve my own understanding of the language. As a first language speaker it is easy to see a grammatical mistake and simply see that it is wrong and correct it. This is much more difficult to do when you have not had consistent access to English books. It was very important to explain the rules to the nuances of the language which was something that I have never really focused on. This experience undoubtedly improved my ability to communicate with others.
Living in a new place has augmented my interest in learning about cultures that are foreign to me. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this internship was getting to know my students extremely well over the summer. Outside of class we discussed cultural values and beliefs as we were particularly interested in each other’s lives. Having spent most of my life around people with fairly similar backgrounds it was great to hear about a culture that is entirely different from my own in some ways and extremely similar in others. Spending a summer abroad has increased my interest in travelling and potentially living somewhere new.
Teaching was much more enjoyable than I expected. Observing improvements from one assignment to the next was particularly gratifying. The students were very intelligent which made it easier for them to use the classes effectively. Seeing the improvement from the student’s essays at the beginning of the program to those at the end showed remarkable progress. From the first week to the last week the student’s improved their SAT scores by about 300 points on average. This data primarily shows how intelligent the student’s are, but it was also great personal feedback for me as a teacher.
This internship gave me a much more realistic outlook on the challenges that face an organization that seeks to improve social justice. I think I entered the summer with some reasonable expectations for the disparity between developed and emerging countries. This internship truly showed me how significant the difference is. The number of capable students who the program had to turn down showed me how many people never receive an opportunity. While I believe that KenSAP is an amazing program that provides an unbelievable chance for many deserving students, it was difficult to grasp how many people do not. This internship reinforced my conviction about supporting social justice because I developed an understanding of the number of capable people who just need a chance.
I think that entering this internship with an open mind and being patient allowed me to be successful in reaching my learning goals and enjoying the process. It was important to expect cultural differences to arise so they were not shocking when they actually occurred. I feel like I learned so much this summer and had an amazing time doing it.
It is hard to believe that I have already been in Kenya for four weeks and that I will be back at Brandeis in less than a month. My time with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project has been extremely rewarding so far.
After completing the arduous selection process I have settled into teaching classes to help the students improve on the SAT, TOEFL and writing. As a prospective law student I plan to take the LSAT this fall. Teaching the skills required to succeed on the critical reading portion of the SAT has improved my ability to perform similar tasks that are required on the LSAT. As I prepare for the LSAT in my free time I encounter difficulties that are similar to those that my student’s face. This has helped me improve as a teacher and a test-taker.
One of my main goals with this internship was to immerse myself in an entirely new culture. I have been able to achieve this with more success than I had previously imagined. Whether it is shopping in the local market or sharing meals with students I feel like I have begun to truly understand and appreciate this unique society. The students in the program actually live at the camp with me for the duration of the program which allows for me to get to know them particularly well. This consistent interaction has been invaluable for me and will undoubtedly help the students’ transition into life in an America when they arrive at college.
I have been surprised by how much I have enjoyed teaching. I had little experience with teaching before I arrived, but have adjusted quickly. The class is a teacher’s dream. It is made up of fourteen highly intelligent and motivated individuals who participate readily. The students respect each other’s ideas and ask pertinent questions about the lessons. Outside of class the students can often be found with a book in hand going over the notes from the day’s lectures. I have found it enormously gratifying to see the students incorporate methods and ideas from my lectures into their work. It has only been a short time, but this internship has certainly sparked an interest in pursuing teaching for a career. The skills and experience I will acquire from this internship will certainly benefit my future academic and professional endeavors.
Working with such a small program has given me the opportunity to see everything that goes into a program for improving social justice. I have often written idealistic papers in support of various social justice projects. This internship has given me insight into the realities of this type of program. My experience so far has reinforced my conviction that social justice can be improved through programs like KenSAP.
I am very excited to see what the next few weeks hold. The internship has already gone by too quickly, but I feel like I am making the most of it. -Alex Kramer ’13
Hello from Iten, Kenya. I have finally gotten settled and found a way to get internet access here in Kenya.
The Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project works to send gifted Kenyan students to elite universities in the United States. The program selects a small group of particularly deserving students to guide through the complicated process of standardized testing and college applications. Since being founded in 2004, KenSAP has placed 89 students among the best colleges and universities in the United States including two at Brandeis. Located in Iten, Kenya the area is world renowned by track and field enthusiasts for the distance running it consistently produces. For village of only 4,000 people the area can account for an inordinate percentage of world-class distance runners. As an avid distance runner and member of the Brandeis Track and Field team this area is particularly interesting to me.
My internship with KenSAP has several major responsibilities. Along with two other interns I will be an instructor for classes on standardized tests and writing. The students will take the TOEFL exam in August and the SAT in October. While these are extremely gifted students, English is typically their third language which makes the critical reading section of the SAT a difficult task. The students have studied English in school and speak well, but the intricacies of the SAT are much easier for a native speaker to understand. Luckily, this is the section that I performed best on so it will be easier to help. Interacting with the students on a consistent basis helps them to improve their understanding of English and American culture which is essential to their success in applying to college and adjusting to a new lifestyle.
After a difficult 48 hours of travel I finally arrived in Iten excited to start despite the jet lag and seven hour time difference. The first week was particularly exciting because I was a major participant in the selection of this year’s students. This year, 77 students applied for the program, all of whom received an A on the national high school exam. I had been reviewing applications for about a month before departing for Kenya which prepared me for a busy week. After discussing each applicant with the small group of selectors, we interviewed each candidate. This is obviously a nerve-wracking process for the potential students who are hoping to be given the opportunity of a lifetime. As a soon to be job applicant, it gave me some perspective of what goes on from the other side of the interview. After several days of interviews and deliberations the group was narrowed down to 14 students who will be this year’s KenSAP class. I will begin teaching courses to help the students prepare for the SAT soon.
I am very excited for the possibilities this summer may hold. Having spent the majority of my life in the northeast this immersion into an entirely new culture has already been quite an experience. The feeling of being stared at for being a minority is completely foreign for me and will certainly change my perspective. Teaching the SAT will undoubtedly improve my own critical reading skills which will help me in my own preparations for the LSAT this fall. Overall, I expect this internship to leave me with an unparalleled experience and an enlightened perspective. – Alex Kramer ‘ 13