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Alumnus provides educational scholarship for a Kenyan youth

When Owen Reitenauer spent two weeks volunteering at the Children and Youth Empowerment Center (CYEC), it was a life-changing experience–not just him but also for a 16-year-old Kenyan boy named David Nderitu. During his visit, Reitenauer made an important decision: to sponsor Nderitu’s education.

Reitenauer graduated from Penn State Berks in 2012 with a B.A. in Global Studies. He traveled to the CYEC in Kenya with other Penn State Berks students in June 2010. The CYEC provides educational and social services to former street-dwelling children of Kenya with the goal of teaching the children a trade that they can use to support themselves. There, Reitenauer and other students taught basic English skills, grammar, and mathematics to the children.

Frequently, children who live at the CYEC are taught trades so they can earn a living. However, through a $500 personal, annual contribution, donors are able to sponsor the education of a youth who has some basic English skills.

According to Reitenauer, he had no intention of sponsoring a child when he went to Kenya. He was not familiar with their education system, and was not aware that the only children who make it to high school are those who come from wealthy families or those who have a sponsor—either an individual or an organization.

“A lot of these kids still visualize the American Dream: They see people on TV with nice clothes and cars,” Reitenauer explains. “However, there is no other way to come to America without money or a great education.”

While in Kenya, Reitenauer says he bonded with Nderitu. After talking with him each day, he decided at the end of the trip to become Nderitu’s sponsor. He also notes that he is very happy with his decision.

Reitenauer commented that while in Kenya, he thought that if he could just help one child to stay in school, that he could make a tremendous difference in that child’s life.

He added that to actually keep in contact with the children after you leave is a very big deal. He says he receives a phone call from Nderitu once or twice each week.

Nderitu has one more year left in high school, with Reitenauer’s sponsorship contingent upon his grades. Currently, he is receiving high grades and plans to attend college.

Although Reitenauer has only traveled to Kenya once, he spent a month in Rwanda with other Penn State Berks students in July 2011, and he hopes to return to Kenya for a visit within the next two years.

Currently Reitenauer is employed as a VA Certifying Official and Financial Aid Specialist at Gwynedd-Mercy College, and he was recently accepted to the Graduate School at George Washington University.

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