Site Visit to Akilah Institute for Women

With the lingering effects of jetlag taking their toll, I arrived on campus at the Akilah Institute for Women on Monday morning at 7:30am still a bit bleary eyed. This was my first time visiting Akilah, the partner group who will host the inaugural workshop in Resonate’s pilot project. It didn’t take long to be swept up in the rush of students arriving on campus donning the Akilah uniform of white blouses and black skirts or pants. Students and teachers passing through on the way to class greeted each other warmly and caught up on weekend news.

The Akilah campus is situated in the Kibagabaga neighborhood, overlooking a valley of farmland and adjacent hills speckled with red-tiled roofs and lined with Eucalyptus trees. Akilah’s facilities include two floors of classrooms and staff offices and an open grassy area where students sit and eat lunch under the shade of banana and avocado trees. Here they take classes in English, Leadership, IT, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality Management, and more – a curriculum designed to equip these young women with a market relevant skill set to secure them jobs after graduation. The Akilah Community Agreement hangs in the classrooms and hallways, affirming the students’ commitment to excellence, honesty, and achievement.

After only one visit, I can see that there is much to do to customize the course to ensure that it builds on other material, and addresses the unique experience of Akilah. I sat with the Academic Director, the Country Director, the Principal, the Leadership Instructor, and the Director of Student Affairs as we talked through how to best to structure the workshop. There were just about as many ideas as women in the room, but after a time we settled on a course of action and all left smiling.

In two weeks’ time, Akilah’s class of 2013 will be participating in Resonate’s storytelling course as part of their leadership class. They will learn to tell a story about who they are, what they value, and how they have come to be the exceptional young women that they are today. Learning to present a narrative confidently and eloquently in public will equip these future leaders to put their best foot forward as they demonstrate the skills and dedication that they learned at Akilah to their communities and future employers.

I can’t wait to hear the stories the will tell.

Megan Madeira