ALA Transformations: Finding Your Voice in the Crowd

It was January, 2009 and Kwinoja, a student from Tanzania, was in tears, shaking with fear and pleading to back out. She had never before spoken in front of boys, nevermind attending a co-educational school. The Agro Experts team did not know what to do. It was minutes before the pitches were scheduled to start. It was a bold idea with a solid team and Kwinoja was a key member. Could she find the courage to tell her story?

She did, almost inaudibly at times, yet the panel could clearly see this was a girl with vast technical expertise and a strong work ethic. And work hard she did. With her skill in Agriculture and sewing, Kwinoja has been an active participant in the SRB (Student-Run Business) program, turning ideas into reality with an admirable dedication to duty.

She is such a sweet, compassionate girl and a pleasure to work with. But it was only in October of this year that it became obvious just how much Kwinoja had transformed in 9 months. For the launch of the SRB Business Challenge the first week of October, 4 students were selected to be ambassadors of the program with an objective to demonstrate how varying skills and strengths contribute to building a successful business. Kwinoja was chosen as an example of the role of  technical expertise and how varying personality types and skills complement to make a strong team.

It was easier than expected to convince Kwinoja to speak to the 1st year students. But no one expected Kwinoja to stand with confidence, a charming smile and give the best talk ever from any student in the SRB Program! She told an honest story deeply rooted in her personal experience, articulating how she had grown from the girl in tears to the girl who gave dreams a second chance, how she was still a shy, reserved person, yet a hard worker who focused on building her business. “You can do it!” she told her audience. She connected with and inspired the students.

Looking at the gentle smiles on faces, feeling the rapt attentiveness in the auditorium, listening to the round of applause after her talk, and we all knew that once again, education had proven its ability to transform and its power to make the difference in the life of this young leader.