ALA Alum Wins 2nd Prize at Smith College-Hosted Draper Competition

July 18th, 2017

Priscilla Semphere has always been vocal about her pride in her language, identity and heritage. So it comes as little surprise when these are the very features that make up the face of her latest victory at the 5th annual Draper Competition, a pitching contest for collegiate women entrepreneurs. Priscilla won $7,500 and a matching scholarship to Draper University for her business venture, the Ekari Book Series, a collection of stories featuring an 8-year old tourist, Ekari, and her travels across Africa. A Malawian by birth, Priscilla’s venture seeks to empower young readers with positive images of the African continent and its many diverse cultures, things which she believes are not part of mainstream media. “Ekari represents a hope for African children. We want these books to start new
conversations for children,” she says.

Priscilla is a huge proponent of storytelling to celebrate culture and also believes that these narratives play an important role in shaping one’s identity. She is particularly interested in finding and learning about innovative and creative ways of presenting educational material to children who live all over the continent. It was with this principle in mind that she co-founded PenAfrica, an organization which she envisions will help Africans come together to understand and celebrate their differences. After graduating from ALA, Priscilla took a gap year to work on PenAfrica and its flagship project; the Ekari Book Series. 750 copies of the first of the Ekari book series were brought to the market by December of 2016. Priscilla kept herself busy with many other activities during her gap year. She enrolled in Watson University, an innovative semester-long accelerator program for young entrepreneurs. She was also part of the 6th cohort of Global Teen Leaders at Three Dot Dash, a We Are Family Foundation Initiative. Priscilla has spoken at several conferences, including TEDx Alexandra, the African Leadership Network Annual Gathering (alongside celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) and the AGCO Africa Summit in Berlin.

A year after she joined Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, she was named one of the inaugural members of the OZY Genius Awards, an online magazine that receives hundreds of submissions from around the world for projects in the sciences and humanities. Priscilla submitted the Ekari Book series to compete as an innovative project by an undergraduate and won $5,000 prize money.

Priscilla will be graduating from university in May 2018 and intends to use her prize money from the Draper competition to cover distribution costs, as well as for the illustration costs for the next book in the Ekari series.

To order a book from the Ekari Series, you can email: 

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This is an article from The Network Unleashed – the blog that highlights the adventures and accomplishments of our program alumni and tracks the impact they are making around the world. Visit the ALA promise here.

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