LAKE PLACID — After nearly a decade, schoolchildren at Jambo Jipya school have a reason to smile every day.
The education center in Mtwapa, Kenya, has graduated a first class of eight high-school students.
And instruction now reaches fully from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Keela Dates Grimmette of Lake Placid began working with the school for orphans in September 2004. She formed the philanthropic organization Reason2Smile a few years later to help support it.
“Has it really been almost 10 years?” she said in a recent interview.
The struggle and determination to provide education has persevered through an Internet scam, civil uprising in Kenya and the ongoing battle there against poverty.
But November’s graduates — there were seven boys and one girl — saw one young man score an impressive B+ on the national exam.
The school is waiting now to hear if he will be accepted into a university program.
For Grimmette, who travels to the school periodically from her home in Lake Placid, the steady pace of growth is deeply satisfying.
Her work here also involves speaking to American school and civic groups about Jambo Jipya on how Reason2Smile supports education for impoverished children.
The school, which started in a few mud huts, is now 15 concrete classrooms with a small play yard. Jambo Jipya and Reason2Smile are working to purchase the property.
“This is our second year of having a full kindergarten through grade 12,” Grimmette said. “We just found out our top student, his name is Clinton, got a B+ in his secondary exams. That is equal to an A in Kenya; no one gets an A.
“He has been attending our school for three years.”
PUBLIC SCHOOL PRICE
Of the eight high-school graduates, two students had attended Jambo Jipya since grade 8, Grimmette said.
But even the free public school isn’t really “free.”