Real Heroes – College and Beyond – CNN Hero of the Year

Kekenya Ntaiya

Written by: Janet Barger of Student Choice

UPDATE (11-20-13):

Congratulations to Kakenya for being a CNN 2013 Hero of the Year Finalist!  And, congratulations to Chad Pregracke for being named 2013 CNN Hero of the Year!  I look forward to following each of them along their respective paths to meeting their goals – building a school in your village and cleaning up our rivers and waterways! For more information and how you can help, check out the Heroes Website or the article announcing Chad as the Hero of the Year!


This week’s blog is a bit different. You see, this week, I want to take a moment to share with you the importance of education and the value an education can bring not only to you personally, but to those around you; your community, your village, and even the culture around you.

Kekenya’s Story

I’d like to share with you the story of Kakenya Ntaiya. Ntaiya overcame many hurdles she faced in life, and along the way has achieved many goals, which in turn have lead to her nomination for the CNN Hero of the year – a competition of sorts in which Ntaiya is one of the top finalists. You can vote for her, or any of the other top 10 Heroes, to be CNN Hero of the Year and that person will receive $250,000 to continue their extraordinary work. Please click if you’d like to learn more about Kekenya’s story.

Rooted in Education

She and I went to Randolph Macon Woman’s College now known as Randolph College. We both arrived on campus sight unseen with aspirations to continue our education – Kakenya overcoming tribal ritual and mores and me being the 4th of 5 children to attend an out of state private school (more info about out of state college here). One of the reasons, I chose to attend Randolph is because they provided me with the most aid – maybe Kakenya had the same thought process. We may even share the same experience of our first ever airplane flight – me 1,500 miles and Kakenya some 8,500 miles from Kenya to the USA to attend college.

From there our paths diverge, but the theme remains the same – our college education has afforded us to achieve our goals that surely would never have been possible otherwise. Accordingly, I share and support her goal of furthering our communities’ education.

Continuing Down Your Own Path

Kakenya continued her education by completing a PhD. She is now using her education to build a school in her village. Her college education is affording her the ability to fulfill her dreams – access to education. My career has been centered around helping families fund their higher education dreams (check out our website more info on Student Choice). Two very different paths, with common goals afforded to each of us using the foundation of our college education.

What will your college education afford you – a job? a career? philanthropy? That choice and that path is yours. Tread it wisely and, like Kekenya, always keep your own goals and aspirations firmly in mind.

Learn More and Vote


To learn more about Kekenya and the other CNN Heroes, please visit the links below. Cast your vote and help one of these individuals make a difference!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *