In our society there are many brilliant people who have sadly not been able to get the chance to achieve their potential and end up wasting away in the towns and villages. There is a myriad of reasons why this happens but for the most part it has been due to lack of opportunities brought about by financial constraints.

We find that a lot of bright students from poor backgrounds at times find themselves not being able to progress beyond high school due to lack of finances. It was a response to this that the Equity Group Foundation started the Equity Leaders Program (ELP) in a bid to break the cycle of poverty by increasing access to tertiary education.

Under the program, Wings to Fly beneficiaries together with top performing students In the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination are given access to leadership training, coaching and mentorship prior to joining university. The program also connects these students to scholarship opportunities at the top universities across the world.

Since it was launched, the Equity Leadership Program has been able to benefit 13,775 scholars of whom 633 are either currently attending or are alumni of leading universities across the world. These are brilliant students who would have most probably not been able to access these opportunities had it not been for the Equity Group Foundation through its ELP program.

In 2020, the Equity Leadership Program was able to airlift ninety-two scholars to forty three institutions. The scholars were spread out in five continents in different countries including the United States, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda and South Africa. Of this number, 19 scholars had been admitted to Ivy League Universities in the United States including Yale (2), Harvard (4), University of Pennsylvania (3), Princeton (3), Cornell (1), Dartmouth (2), Columbia (2) and Brown (2). These scholars were to receive scholarships worth over Ksh. 2 Billion and a stipend of Kshs.16 million to facilitate their preparation and travel to their host countries. If this is not life changing, then I don’t know what is!!

As part of the ELP program, Equity provides paid internship to top performing secondary school scholars including Wings to Fly alumni beneficiaries. The program aims to educate and provide mentorship and exposure to Kenyan youth, create a generation of value-based leaders, who bring about positive transformation to the community by driving sustainable economic growth and social progress in Kenya and globally.

A good example of an individual whose life has been transformed by the Equity Leadership Program is Douglas Gichohi Maina. At just four years, he started working as herds boy in his neighbors homestead due to the fact that his Mum was so poor that she could not afford to pay school fees for him. One day while grazing his goats, he met a village elder who took pity on him and took him to school for baby class. However, due to the fact that his clothes were torn, other kids used to laugh at him which made the whole schooling experience unbearable. This saw him quit school and go back to herding the goats.

One day, while he was out in the fields he met a man named Gerald Githinji who was also grazing his cattle. Seeing how young he was, Gerald asked him why he was not in school, to which Maina responded that he did not have Ksh. 250 for  paying school fees. On hearing this, the man told him that he would give him the money to enable him to go back to school. Gerald lived upto his promise and gave him the money to study, which enabled Douglas to go back to school. Other than just providing school fees, Gerald also became Douglas’s legal guardian together with his siblings on realizing that his mum was ailing and was not able to take care of them.

It was this stability that enabled Maina to settle down in school and within no time he was among the best students. He exceled in his KCSE exams and emerged the 7th best student in the country which got him an admission to Alliance High School and a Wings to Fly scholarship. The scholarship other than paying for his school fees also provided shopping as well as transport to school and back. They were also given a chance to attend conferences where he met people like Former U.S President Bill Clinton and Businessman Manu Chandaria. All this had a great impact on his life such that by the time he was leaving high school his mindset had been transformed to seeing the sky as the limit.

Maina’s hardwork and tenacity saw him pass his KCSE examinations and get an opportunity to join Duke University to pursue Economics and Political Science. Before joining university, Maina got an internship at Equity Bank which acted as part of his coaching and mentorship to prepare him for what lay ahead of him.

After finishing his university education, Maina intends to come back to Kenya so as to be part of the transformation. His dream is to see Kenya become a country where opportunities are available to everybody not just to the chosen few.

Maina’s is one of the thousands of stories of how the Equity Group is changing people’s lives for the better through the Equity Leadership Program. As Gerald notes, Maina’s dreams would never have been realized were it not for them