May 17, 2021
For immediate release
Media contact: Cara Scarola Hansen
Middleton High Student Raises over $13,000 for a School Bus in Rural Kenya: Part of Youth Empowerment Initiative
Tesia Shibilski, a sophomore at Middleton High School, recently raised $13,865 to help purchase a school bus for Kijana Global Innovation School, a primary school in Western Kenya.
Tesia has always had a passion for volunteering and helping others, rooted in attending Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative Program (BCBI) meetings with her grandfather and mother since in utero and joining her father in volunteering every year at a prom for teens with disabilities or special needs. While an attendee at the BCBI meetings, Tesia learned both the importance of protecting apes and the personal stories of what was needed to provide education and building supplies to the local villagers in the Congo. Tesia’s interest in helping youth in Kenya piqued when she saw something in the mail from her mother’s high school social studies teacher, Jim Cummings, who attended UW-Madison, taught at The Prairie School in Racine, WI, and founded Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative–a non-profit organization that had recently started building a school in Western Kenya and needed a bus for transporting students in the three surrounding counties.
“When I read some information about the school and saw pictures of the students, my Mom told me more about Kijana, and I wanted to be a part of it. I like the idea of students helping fellow students, because we have the process of learning in common no matter how different our experiences might be,” Tesia said in response to what is motivating her to help Kenyan youth.
Tesia began meeting virtually with Cummings, Founder and Executive Director of Kijana, in the winter of 2020. Cummings spoke with Tesia about several things the school needed. A few months later, they started the Kijana Mary Fields Bus Campaign.
“A new bus seemed like a reachable goal, and something I knew my friends and peers would be excited to support. Knowing that we all, as students, can relate to the experience of riding a bus,” she stated.
Tesia decided to start with a goal of raising $10,000. She knew it was a high goal and would take work but she also knew she could do it. The contributions were slow to start. Using social media and sending personal emails and texts to family and friends with asks to share “got us over the slow start and pretty quickly we had reached our goal.”
Tesia leveraged social media to get as many fellow students as possible to donate small amounts, hoping that all together they could make the goal. Not only did she ask friends from her own school, but she also recruited one of her best friends who moved to Michigan two years ago and another close friend who attends another school to help with the social media campaign.
“I figured by tapping into different areas and different schools, we would get to as many students as possible. I started an Instagram page for Kijana and started creating content and sharing links to the fundraising site Mr. Cummings had arranged.”
Eventually, more and more students began following the page, asking questions, and donating.
“We ended up exceeding our goal, and I’m excited to see what we can do in our next campaign for Kijana.”
There is still work to be done. Kijana has set a goal to raise $450,000 in 2021, and they are about one-third of the way there. They are preparing to launch a campaign to raise money to build a library/media center in addition to their need for more classrooms, technological resources, books, a dining area, increased staff, sports fields, and a playground. Tesia is currently working with Jim Cummings and other high school youth across the country in developing a national Kijana youth leadership team that will work with high schools throughout the U.S. to develop cross-cultural dialogue and financial support to under-served Kenyan school communities.
In addition to volunteering with Kijana, Tesia is a member of the National Honor Society, Global Outreach Club, Club Connect, and Link Crew at Middleton High School.
Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that promotes and cultivates youth empowerment through educational development, cross-cultural dialogue, and sustainable and environmentally friendly economic growth, among under-served Kenyan school communities and American school communities. Kijana has served a pivotal role in transforming education in Western Kenya. With hundreds of thousands of dollars of investments, Kijana altered the educational trajectory and raised expectations of citizens by investing in over 30 schools countrywide. Kijana is currently in the process of building a modern pre-k through 12th-grade independent school, Kijana Global Innovation School (KGIS), to serve primarily average-income and highly-talented Kenyan youth and infuse new options in our global educational capacity. KGIS opened its doors in January 2020 with 15 students and one block of administrative offices and classrooms for pre-k through second grades. Today, enrollment is around 84 students and climbing, serving pre-k through sixth-grade classes. KGIS will graduate its first high school class in 2026. For more information or to provide financial support, visit: kijana.org.
001: Sophomore Tesia Shibilski stands in front of Middleton High School.
More photos and IDs available upon request.