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Aga Khan Academy students win first Presidential Award Gold level

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Two students of the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Sumera Yego and Magdalena Gakuo, are the first Kenyans to achieve the gold level President’s Award- Kenya (PA-K) via the newly introduced online documentation platform.

The President’s Award is a self development programme delivering life skills and ethical values to young people aged 14 to 25, with the aim of building a better society. Currently, 120 countries worldwide, including Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius, Canada and Australia are involved in the programme.

In September last year, PA-K launched online documentation to enable participants to use an online record book to document their activities. “We now aim to have every participant register online by 2017,” said Jinnarus Wambugu, a research and programme manager for PA-K.

The two girls were among the first Kenyan participants to register for the programme online, and completed it to emerge as the country’s first gold level award winners on the digital platform.

The President’s Award programme spans physical recreation, community service, and the building of new skills. The two Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, girls chose running as their physical recreation. After constant weekly training, they gained the confidence and stamina to participate in the half marathon organised by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta towards raising funds for the ‘Beyond Zero’ campaign.

Gold level candidates are also required to complete an adventurous journey and residential project.

“We both got the chance to climb Mt.Kenya as part of our adventurous journey and it was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. I also got to learn about the beauty and strength that comes with team work, since I had to interact and work together with other team members during the climb,” said 18-year-old Sumera.

“The programme taught me to be more involved than I was before. I am now taking part in community changing activities, like clean up exercises, and also pushing myself to be good at many things,” she said.

PA-K, which is a member of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Association, was launched in Kenya by the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1966. It provides a structured platform for youth to spend their time constructively, building confidence and learning how to interact with people positively. It has been an experience that has been instrumental for many award winners in getting jobs and maintaining good relationships at work. The award’s strong focus on contributing to society also militates against negative peer pressure and social vices.

“I got the chance to volunteer at Open Arms International, a children’s home in Eldoret, as part of my residential project, where I was offering educational talks and mentorship to the kids there. This gave me the interest in doing mentorship to other youths so I can impact the same positive change I received and make a change at community level,” said Gakuo, aged 17.

“I also gained patience and endurance,” she said.

PA-K has seen thousands of young people from schools, universities, youth groups, and rehabilitation centres across the country receive the award, equipping them to thrive in an economy that is currently seeking to overcome deep-seated youth unemployment, and mobilize young people in leadership.

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