Kenya to the Breakers

Kenya to the Breakers

By Marika Krause & Clay Hamilton

Sarah Montgomery '13 with Irene Lamai at the Daraja Academy in Kenya. Photo courtesy Sarah Montgomery '13
An SCU student straps on running shoes for a good cause.
A pink gorilla in the annual Bay to Breakers footrace in San Francisco. Photo by Geoffrey Weber via

One of San Francisco's tried and true traditions, the annual Bay to Breakers footrace, is known more for its wacky costumes and spirited revelers than its fundraising. But this year, organizers have expanded the run's charity program, helping institutions receive much needed financial support through official pledge runner participation in the race. Helping lead some of those pledge runners is SCU junior Sarah Montgomery '13.

Montgomery has rallied 150 people to run for the Daraja Academy. Daraja, which means "bridge" in Swahili, is the first, free all-girls secondary school in Kenya. It's tasked with providing a quality education to exceptional Kenyan girls who don't have the means to continue their education. This summer the first class of students will graduate from the 5-year program.

"The value of an educated girl is immense," says Montgomery. "When you educate a girl, you educate her family, community, country, and the world. The girls of Daraja have completely changed my life and my reason for living. I truly love them with all my heart," she adds. Montgomery will return to the school in July for her fourth summer of interning. She says the students are extremely grateful for the support of those running at Bay to Breakers. "If they had the chance, they would give a big hug to anyone who has ever supported the school. Before Daraja, they rarely had the chance to show their potential, and having the support and opportunity for an education means the world to them."

Montgomery's group won't be the only ones running the race. Girls on the Daraja campus are partnered with the runners in San Francisco and on the day of the race, the Kenyan girls will run the same distance as those in America. A third group of students from a high school in Australia will also run to show their support.

Campus Minister Matt Smith says he finds it inspiring to see SCU students engage in community work. He's particularly fond of Montgomery's approach to volunteering, which he says is without ego or expectation. "She enters the Kenyan community with the attitude that she can learn from the community as the community navigates how to respond to its own needs—she is there simply as a support," says Smith.

Majoring in anthropology, Montgomery hopes to use her degree for international educational development. She credits her professors at Santa Clara for engaging her in critical conversations and sparking new ideas. "Anthropology has allowed me to see every person on the planet as an individual," she says. "Yes, people are part of different groups, but once you are able to understand a person by themselves, you are able to understand a culture or place much better."

You can learn more about Daraja Academy on their website.

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