Born and raised in Kenya, John Kidenda grew up in a society in which most families – including his own – could not readily fund a college education. Despite a prestigious secondary school education and an interest in engineering, it took considerable sacrifice on the part of John’s family for him to make it to a major university.
Most African students face a series of obstacles in obtaining a college degree, of which expense is only one. John’s family was not alone in making deep sacrifices to provide funding for college. African families know that education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty, and they do whatever they can to fund a college degree. Nevertheless, students still must compete for very limited spaces at the few universities in Africa. Even then, the classes at many of these institutions are so large as to severely inhibit the quality of education. In John’s case, his interest in engineering required a curriculum at least ten years ahead of what Kenyan universities could offer.
As a result of his family's sacrifices and various forms of financial aid, John made it to the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied computer engineering and finance through the Engineering Route to Business Program. During his sophomore year, however, an unforeseen family tragedy prevented his family from providing the already limited funds for his education. Fortunately, one of John’s career mentors, Rick Reeder, decided to take action with an eye towards helping future African students overcome obstacles similar to John’s. Thus, The African Leadership Bridge was born.
Kidenda says his business education has made him hopeful about the opportunity to one day work to alleviate poverty around the world and achieve other social goals.
Having graduated with honors in 2009, John currently serves on the board of directors for The African Leadership Bridge. John has already paid forward his entire ALB scholarship, and is on a full ride scholarship from Harvard to the Kennedy School of Government for a Master’s Degree which will strongly enhance his ability to be a change agent when he returns to Africa. By paying back his student loans and paying forward his gifts from The African Leadership Bridge, John has helped make ALB's scholarships sustainable.
John's immediate contributions to the foundation alongside his long-term goals for aiding development in Africa exemplify the kind of force-multiplier impact that The African Leadership Bridge aims to attain from all of its scholars.