With a sense of nostalgia, 246 graduates gathered in celebration and recognition of their St Jude’s connection and all they have achieved since leaving the school gates.

St Jude’s alumni, from the very first graduating class in 2015 to those who completed Form 6 this June, arrived back at St Jude’s in style – on the school buses they used to catch on their way to school! They gathered at Sisia Primary Campus for dinner, speeches and dancing, the dining hall made special with tea-light candles, colorful flowers and bright tablecloths. School Founder, Gemma Sisia, made a stirring speech to the crowd who listened intently.

“It is amazing to see you all here, welcome back! You have already made a significant impact on the community in your own ways, and I know our alumni program can go from strength to strength because of you. It has always been my dream that in the future, I want you serving on the board of our school, or even helping us run the school,” Gemma said passionately.

Reminiscing Old Times: Alumni enjoyed entertainment and speeches throughout the night.
Reminiscing Old Times: Alumni enjoyed entertainment and speeches throughout the night.

Gemma also launched Alumni Spirit, an initiative through which alumni can give back to St Jude’s in the spirit with which they received their free education. This can either be contributing financially towards unsponsored scholarships, or by giving their time to come back to St Jude’s to volunteer in various school departments.  

“Through this new initiative the cycle of fighting poverty continues. We have crunched the numbers and if 75 alumni give just AU$3 a month that would sponsor the scholarship for one student’s entire education. You can support a young student through a journey that you are now finishing,’ Gemma explained to the gathered alumni.

Around 65 alumni signed up to the Alumni Spirit initiative after Gemma’s stirring speech, excited to start giving back to St Jude’s now that they are undertaking the next stage of their journey, whether that be as an intern, immersed in higher education or with a budding career already underway.

For the first time the reunion was also coupled with St Jude’s Career’s Day, held earlier in the day with secondary students. This meant that alumni could join industry professionals to give advice to current St Jude’s students about their future.

The invited professionals, representing Tanzanian industries, encouraged students to pursue their passions, while alumni and 2016 Head Boy, Sifuni, shared these words to those following in his footsteps.

Alumni Advice: 2016 Head Boy, Sifuni, advising current students during a Career Day workshop.
Alumni Advice: 2016 Head Boy, Sifuni, advising current students during a Career Day workshop.

“Back when I was at St Jude’s, I learnt things that led me to where I am right now. I got love, skills, confidence and all that can make you different from the rest. Take every opportunity that you get here at St Jude’s, there’s a lot in store for you. Explore the resources leaders offer you because it will guide you to good ends. I believe that in the next five years the graduates sitting here today are going to be a community of very highly skilled people, who are confident St Jude’s professionals.”

Arafa, a 22-year-old St Jude’s tertiary scholar who travelled from her University in Dar Es Salaam for the event, motivated students too.

“Your greatest resource is the people here, it’s the people that can help you get to where you want to go. While you are here at St Jude’s try to make the most of your opportunity as there is so much to explore,” Arafa shared. 

Arafa Returns to School: 2017 Alumni, Arafa enjoying the reunion dinner after addressing current students.
Arafa Returns to School: 2017 Alumni, Arafa enjoying the reunion dinner after addressing current students.

St Jude’s aspiring engineers, doctors, scientists and entrepreneurs then gathered in smaller workshop groups with the industry professionals to consider and discuss the best pathways to their dream jobs.

The events across the day and into the night truly brought the school values full circle and spotlighted the St Jude’s school spirit, as our alumni make their impact in the wider world. 

Will you join our impressive alumni in giving back? Empower young leaders to fight poverty through education and make a donation to St Jude’s.

2019 will see a much anticipated, major milestone for The School of St Jude. 24 tertiary scholars, supported by the Beyond St Jude’s (BSJ) program, are giving themselves the best chance of a bright future by graduating from universities across Tanzania.

Just four years after graduating from Form 6 at St Jude’s, and completing the Community Service Year as part of the BSJ program, these future leaders are setting the example for over 2,000 St Jude’s students, interns and scholars that will follow in their footsteps. 

For 25-year-old Baba, until he joined St Jude’s in 2013 graduating from university was only a pipe dream when he was growing up in his traditional and remote Maasai boma (a group of huts made of mud and sticks).

Pipe Dream: Baba outside his traditional Maasai boma in 2003 shortly before he joined St Jude's, with dreams of attending University.
Pipe Dream: Baba outside his traditional Maasai boma in 2003 shortly before he joined St Jude's, with dreams of attending University.

Speaking from his tutorial hall at the University of Dar es Salaam, one of the most respected tertiary education institutions in Tanzania, it’s a stark contrast to the shy boy of just five years earlier who only knew a few words of English when he started at St Jude’s in Form 5.

“I have been able to give my family hope. The St Jude’s environment, and now university life, couldn’t be more different to the Maasai land I call home. The learning techniques at university are very similar to St Jude’s so it really helped with the transition. My favourite part of university is being able to engage with different professionals,” Baba beamed.

When Baba walks across the graduation stage in November to receive his Bachelor of Science with Education, he really will be breaking new ground for his family, community and The School of St Jude.

With a future now full of possibilities, Baba plans to use his degree to keep other young Tanzanians in school. On average, 74% of Tanzanian children are not in secondary school and Baba is passionate to change that. With his degree, he has every chance of being able to drive change in his country.

“I love teaching mathematics. I still feel very connected to St Jude’s and I would love the chance to become a teacher there in the future,” Baba shared.

Fellow tertiary scholar, Anna, completes her Bachelor of Commerce and Accounting this year after passing a series of final exams beginning this month. She’s also a trailblazer, forging a new path for Tanzanian women.

Alumni Achievement: Anna and Baba couldn't be prouder to be part of the first cohort of graduating tertiary scholars.
Alumni Achievement: Anna and Baba couldn't be prouder to be part of the first cohort of graduating tertiary scholars.

“Home was really tough, I lived with my parents and three siblings. My family is very proud, especially my father and he just can’t wait for me to graduate. I have been able to help my sisters; they have reached Form 6 with my help. I never thought I would be graduating university, but I wished for it very much,” Anna said.

Now 25 years old, Anna was among the brightest in her government primary school but, like so many children in Tanzania, the cost of a good secondary education was beyond her family’s means until she was given the opportunity to attend St Jude’s.

“I have friends that I went to government school with and some of them live on the street with no secondary education and they are struggling. Many of them wished to continue school but couldn’t because they didn’t have anyone to support them. I have also sadly had a few friends that have fallen into drugs after having a very hard life,” Anna said quietly.

Instead, Anna has thrived at university and continues the career counselling she began at St Jude’s. It has helped her to understand how best to use her major in Accounting and she now plans to become an auditor, a much sought-after job in Tanzania.

“Being at university in Dar es Salaam I have visited offices and organisations I never thought I would reach; it’s been an emotional transformation. Coming to university independently, but with the support of St Jude’s and my sponsor, has made me a stronger person,” Anna explained.

Major Milestone: Anna and Baba are just two of the 23 St Jude's tertiary scholars graduating University in 2019.
Major Milestone: Anna and Baba are just two of the 23 St Jude's tertiary scholars graduating University in 2019.

Both Anna and Baba couldn’t be prouder to be part of the first Beyond St Jude’s cohort graduating from university. They are defying the odds because less than 5% of tertiary-aged Tanzanians are enrolled in university.

St Jude’s mission has always been to educate poor, bright students to become leaders in Tanzania and this upcoming milestone makes Anna, Baba and their cohort of tertiary graduates exactly that!

Support our students to follow in the footsteps of Anna and Baba and become university graduates by sponsoring a scholar’s tertiary scholarship today.

Standing in the middle of New York City, gazing up to Times Square Ball, St Jude’s graduate Enock knows he’s a long way from home.

The charismatic graduate is about to commence his third year of study at the University of Rochester, majoring in Finance and Economics. A dream made possible by his hard work, the Beyond St Jude’s program and its partnership with the MasterCard Foundation.  

“I always wanted to study abroad, I even wrote that dream down and put it in a time capsule while I was still in primary at St Jude’s, and it is still buried somewhere on Sisia Primary Campus,” Enock remembers.

New York State of Mind: Enock in New York City where he studies at the University of Rochester, majoring in Finance and Economics.
New York State of Mind: Enock in New York City where he studies at the University of Rochester, majoring in Finance and Economics.

As part of his scholarship Enock will return to Tanzania at the completion of his degree to drive change in his country, but in the meantime there has been some major adjusting for the 25-year-old, from his rural home in Arusha, to the bright lights of America.

“There are a lot of cultural differences; the food, the accent, the dressing style and the technology. I have had to save up to get my dad a smartphone so we can call regularly. My university is famous for diversity and there are so many different people from different parts of the world. The people are really, really nice,” Enock smiles.

But no matter the distance, Enock is still very much connected to The School of St Jude as a founding member of the St Jude’s Alumni Committee. He recently gave a stirring speech to this year’s Form 6 graduates and reflected on the importance of an Alumni program.

“St Jude’s is my family, it is home. I spent more than 50% of my life there. I am one of the school’s first Form 6 graduates and I want all graduates to benefit from a strong alumni network. I am thinking of jobs, internships and connections. I want the alumni to be a top resource for graduates. Some alumni members may start their own businesses and they can employ other St Jude’s graduates in the future,” Enock shared.

Leading The Way: Enock visited Sisia Primary Campus during his summer break to give back to the school.
Leading The Way: Enock visited Sisia Primary Campus during his summer break to give back to the school.

After a successful alumni reunion last year, scholars stay in touch by running activities, sharing professional learnings and visiting St Jude’s during university breaks.

“One key difference between us and alumni of other schools is that their parents had an opportunity to get a good education and go on to good jobs so they have bigger professional networks. Most of our parents didn’t even get to secondary school, so it’s our responsibility to set up networks for our fellow and future alumni. As we become professionals we need to support each other,” Enock explains.

The scholars now want to take their involvement with their former school, that gave them so much, to the next level.

The Alumni Committee are set to launch a voluntary giving scheme at the annual Alumni reunion, to be held later this year.

“Alumni members can offer their time and come back to St Jude’s, volunteering in various school departments, and, if they wish, they can contribute financially to the Unsponsored Student Fund.”

“St Jude’s Alumni may give back to St Jude’s and be formally recognised for their contributions.” Alumni coordinator, Maddie, explained.

For Enock the scheme gives him a way to contribute to St Jude’s despite a hectic university schedule in which he is thriving.

Humble beginnings: Enock studying at St Jude's in 2009.
Humble beginnings: Enock studying at St Jude's in 2009.

“Everyone is excited about the opportunities. Australian schools sponsor St Jude’s students for example, so why can’t our alumni help those that aren’t sponsored? I have also seen what a difference alumni can make in America. As we become professionals we have more of an opportunity to support each other.”

The new alumni-driven initiative aims to bring the school values full circle and spotlight the community and school spirit of St Jude’s, as our graduates make their impact across the world.

Join our tertiary scholars and make a donation today to change the lives of St Jude’s students from poverty to professional, just like Enock and his fellow alumni.

St Jude’s largest alumni gathering was recently hosted at Smith Secondary Campus. More than 700 secondary students gathered to greet their predecessors, who are currently studying at university, working in their desired fields, or completing Beyond St Jude’s Community Service Year. Graduates were thrilled to reconnect with their former classmates, and equally honoured to share some wise words with younger students. Many of them are now only months away from taking their final steps outside St Jude’s gates and embarking on the future they have worked so hard to create. 

“It was a wonderful day. We were not aware just how special it would be. An inerasable moment for students, graduates and teachers,” Glory, a Form 6 student, shared. 

“It was fun hearing from graduates about their experience at universities. Various representatives gave inspiring talks to the whole audience, then we moved into smaller groups and had the chance to speak to people studying in fields that are of interest to us,” she added. 

The event was especially inspiring for 26 new Form 5 students, who joined St Jude's from under-resourced government schools around northern Tanzania. For the first time, their eyes have been opened to future prospects. 

Hands together for Haruni: Haruni is just one of our graduates making a difference already!
Hands together for Haruni: Haruni is just one of our graduates making a difference already!

Haruni, a graduate from 2016, offered a passionate call to action, rousing the gathered students and igniting the flame of school pride. 

“Young sisters and brothers, let us study hard. Hard work is a bridge to a successful journey. We should always make sure that we never regret anything in the future. Tanzania’s development lies within the hands of St Jude’s students. Make sure the smile on your face never fades and let’s all meet on the mountain peak of success,” Haruni said. 

Haruni studies Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics in Tanzania, as well as working part-time to gain experience.

Daudi, from the Class of 2015, spoke about the value of undertaking community service and nurturing one’s passions. After completing his Community Service Year, Daudi was granted a scholarship through Beyond St Jude's Tertiary program, which has enabled him to pursue tertiary education in Uganda. 

After official proceedings, graduates and students enjoyed friendly rivalry on the football field and basketball court, showcasing wonderful teamwork and skill! 

Back in the game: The reunion ended with a sports bonanza between graduates and students.
Back in the game: The reunion ended with a sports bonanza between graduates and students.

Angela, St Jude’s Deputy Director, oversees the Beyond St Jude’s program and, with the Beyond St Jude’s team, has nurtured the growth of our alumni since our first graduates emerged in 2015. 

“To see the program growing is exceptional. And the continued school spirit these young leaders wish to express is phenomenal. They really are reaping the rewards of their hard work and have taken best advantage of opportunities they received at St Jude’s.”

Would you like to give a Tanzanian student the opportunity of a lifetime? Sponsor an academic scholarship for one of our new Form 5 students and pave the path to a bright future.

It was a spectacular night —144 of our graduates gathering in celebration and recognition of where they have come from, where they are now, and where they are going. 

The Alumni reunion dinner took place at Sisia Primary Campus on a Saturday evening. A throwback to their school days, graduates arrived in style – on the school buses they caught each day, some for more than a decade! Many graduates saw their return to St Jude’s as a true homecoming. 

School Founder, Gemma Sisia, bursting with pride, officially opened the ceremony, hosted in the Sisia Primary Campus dining hall. 

“It is amazing to see you all here, welcome back. You have already made a significant impact on the community in your own ways, and I hope you use tonight as an opportunity to reconnect over a delicious meal, and most importantly, to have fun together,” Gemma said. 

Formal proceedings began with an awards ceremony, during which 16 graduates were acknowledged for their exceptional contributions to society and their personal achievements. 

Sweet reunion: Alumni were treated to a delicious evening!
Sweet reunion: Alumni were treated to a delicious evening!

Enock, a 2015 graduate studying towards an Economics degree at Rochester University, was awarded for his continued school spirit and enthusiasm for St Jude’s. 

“I have been a part of St Jude’s community for 15 years. It feels like home. I am thankful for this event, bringing us all together again with Mama Gemma. It is our responsibility to offer support in any way we can and spread the word about our school, the school which helped to raise us.” 
Alex, St Jude’s first graduate to sponsor a St Jude’s academic scholarship, also received an award and echoed Enock’s sentiments during his acceptance speech. 

“I know that all of us are grateful for the opportunities this school gave us. We must not take the opportunity for granted. I met Abie, the young boy who my donation supports, just a few days ago and that moment affected me in ways I couldn’t expect. St Jude’s is like a family and, through sponsorship, I remain connected,” he shared.  

Full of heart: Sifuni, a 2016 graduate, received a leadership award from Gemma Sisia.
Full of heart: Sifuni, a 2016 graduate, received a leadership award from Gemma Sisia.

Alex studies Engineering and Pre-Medicine through a scholarship at Stanford University. One of the teachers he credits for his success is Smith Secondary Campus Headmaster, Mr Mcharo, who attended the event and enthusiastically spoke of his hopes for our graduates. 

“St Jude’s produces some of the best young people in Tanzania. I always knew Alex would do great things. And to see students like Hosiana, a Beyond St Jude’s Scholar studying Medicine at the University of Dar Es Salaam, and achieving a GPA of 4.8 — we are overjoyed for her,” Mr Mcharo said. 

Among the attendees were a number of current Form 5 students who had been volunteering with school activities that day. For them, attending the event was a chance to reconnect with their older peers and look with anticipation to their own bright futures. 

“It is so inspiring [to see the graduates],” Form 5 student, Faith, grinned. 
“I admire them greatly because they all have a huge heart, and the hope to give back to others. I know one day I will join them,” she insisted. 

Will you join our impressive graduates in giving back? Empower young leaders to fight poverty through education and make a donation to St Jude’s.

Reunion

Twelve years ago Alex sat a test that would change his life and put him on the journey out of extreme poverty in Tanzania and into one of the world’s most sought-after universities, Stanford. In this essay, Alex remembers in brilliant detail the day he sat the test for a St Jude’s scholarship and outlines his hopes to use his education to bring a brighter future to Tanzania. 

The blazing equatorial sun beat down on the massive crowd in the street. The air was full of dust and the smell of sweat as the multitude of 7 year old children tried to get near the small entrance gate to the school. My mother was far behind me when I finally reached it. The school askari (gateman) grabbed my shirt, pulled me through the small opening and placed me at the end of a very long line. Through the distance I could barely see the other end of the line where sat a young, neatly dressed white lady with a couple of small books on her lap. Eventually it was my turn; the lady handed me a basic English reading book entitled Peter and Jane. I took a deep breath, and slowly read aloud the opening paragraph. When finished, I looked up and the woman’s smile told me that I could now move on to take the math test, which was quite easy. When I came back out of the school gate, my waiting Mama could tell from my face that I had passed the entrance tests.

A blast from the past: Alex back in 2004 when h joined St Jude's.
A blast from the past: Alex back in 2004 when h joined St Jude's.

Thousands of bright Tanzanian youth from very humble backgrounds have passed through this same screening process for entry into the School of St Jude’s of Tanzania every year for the past 13 years. With admission being highly selective I am proud to say that I recently became a member of it’s very first graduating class. St Jude’s provides free, quality education to about 2000 students. Getting this privilege was a great relief for my single parent mother of ten children – which may seem a large family, but for my Maasai tribe, it is very normal. Maasai children are often negatively stereotyped as being uneducated, having a future of grazing cattle instead of attending school, and looked down upon for wearing a unique and traditional style of dress.

But at St Jude’s, it was different. It was refreshing to see that our tribe had acceptance and positive recognition, and we were encouraged to openly sing and teach other students and visitors Maasai songs and do our traditional dances in school assemblies. With the vision of creating future leaders of Tanzania, St Jude’s tries to unleash the potential of every student, beyond cultural beliefs and financial status, with a special emphasis on actively serving the community we have come from. Most young people in Tanzania are not as fortunate as I to attend a good school; their only option is overcrowded government schools with limited teachers and resources. Volunteer teaching in local government schools was thus an every weekend priority for me during my time at St Jude’s. I particularly loved teaching sciences and math, helping students to understand complex formulas, while encouraging them to appreciate the practical value of these subjects. 

From little things big things grow: Alex as Form 4 dux and with the flags of the universities he was accepted to.
From little things big things grow: Alex as Form 4 dux and with the flags of the universities he was accepted to.

No matter where my future leads me, my St. Jude’s experience has taught me the importance of accepting all cultures and traditions. But it has also given me the skills to conquer challenges, turning them into stepping stones towards bringing positive change. As a result of my gift of a St Jude’s education, I am even more aware today that my greatest challenge still lies ahead in bringing about positive future change for other young Tanzanians, especially for my often looked down upon fellow Maasai!!

lex wouldn't be where he is today with out the fantastic St Jude's teachers, donate to teaching today