It is the dream of every Kenyan learner to acquire the highest level of education to increase their chances of making it in the current dynamic and very competitive employment world.

The faces of 22 Kenyan students lit up on Wednesday when they got the good news that they will be awarded scholarships worth Sh980 million to join Ivy League universities in US.

Through the Kenya Scholar Access Program (KenSAP), the 22 bright students got the US university scholarships and are preparing to join the prestigious US universities in 2024.

They are set to join Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Amherst, Brown, Claremont McKenna, Colgate, Dartmouth, Davidson, Hamilton, Middlebury, Northwestern, Smith, Tufts, University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto, Wellesley, and Williams during the 2024 entrance.

The performers, who come from underprivileged backgrounds, sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2023 and were selected from all the 47 counties in Kenya.

The students first received a free residential university access program training for close to six months where they learn how to apply for and also excel in American universities.

On landing in the US, the chosen students receive scholarship packages covering tuition fees, accommodations, meals, travel costs, and other attendant costs from the universities.

While in America, KenSAP still holds the hand of the students by according them guidance, mentorship and support while they study to ensure they succeed in all their undertakings.

Charles Field-Marsham, KenSAP’s Principal Benefactor and Board of Directors chair, says the program remains true to its pledge to nurture the brightest minds from poor backgrounds.

“By providing these exceptional students with the resources they need, we are not only investing in their futures but also in the future of the country and bringing bright Kenyan minds to places all across the world,” opined Field-Marsham.

KenSAP Executive Director Alan Davidson challenged the 22 Kenyan students to focus on their studies after securing their slots beating hundreds of thousands of global applicants.

“This achievement shows the potential of a true global citizen within you but there is still much hard work ahead of you to achieve your potential. Always remember that your success carries the hopes of your families, communities, and Kenya as whole,” Davidson said.

For its beneficiaries, KenSAP is the link between their high school academic achievements and accessing their ambitious dreams through world-class institutions of higher learning.

The selection process is rigorous and each year only 20 students are picked from more than 1,000 applicants, who must rank among top 1⁄10 of 1 per cent of all KCSE candidates.

The holistic selection process also takes into consideration the candidate’s extracurricular accomplishments, commitment to community development, and leadership potential.

Since 2006, all students who have selected to take part in the program have earned their admission, with full financial assistance, to a distinguished American college or university.

Since it was established in 2004, more than 80 KenSAP beneficiary students have returned home to Kenya to secure employment at some of the leading companies and institutions.

The program was the brainchild of Kenyatta University Professor Mike Boit and his American journalist friend John Manners, who was the initiative’s Founding Executive Director.

They launched a successful pilot with five students then upscaled to 12-15 students in 2005 after Field-Marsham joined to ensure management stability and financial sustainability.

Field-Marsham provided 95 per cent of the funding for the program up to 2017, when he and Alan Davidson spearheaded the program to a more sustainable fundraising approach.

The program now relies on alumni to fundraise almost 20 per cent of its annual budget, and in the recent years, they have given more than Sh46.4 million of their own money back to it.

In their ambitious endeavour to change the lives of many bright students with poor backgrounds, KenSAP has pursued other creative sources of sustainable financial support.

With an annual budget of Sh39.3 million, KenSAP’s has unlocked more than Sh11.4 billion in financial aid, empowering 295 brilliant Kenyan students to study in America up to date.

The program marks its 20th year amidst a global push for the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help attain inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.