Students For KEEP

Students for KEEP Update 2015

Students for KEEP (“SFK”), an official club at John Jay High School since 2012, has been busy spreading the word on the issues girls face in rural Kenya and fundraising to support the tuition of the 5th grade class at the Kakenya Center for Excellence (“KCE”). The club hosted a viewing of Kakenya Ntaiya’s (KCE Founder) Ted Talks video which generated greater understanding and interest in the cause.

In October, SFK Club joined forces with the Feminism Club to attend the screening of He Named Me Malala. Recently, KEEP board members presented a slideshow of past and present projects to SFK members and guests which prompted intuitive questions and conversation. In addition, club members have exchanged pen pal letters with the KCE 5th graders which has helped to create a unique connection between the students. SFK will continue to raise awareness and funds throughout the school year through membership drives, bake sales and by volunteering for the Running Goddess 5K at Lasdon Arboretum in spring.

Newly elected officers voted in this fall include:

  • Adare Cronlin (President)
  • Kayla Medille and Willa Tobin (Vice Presidents)
  • Emma Page (Secretary)
  • Lucy Seigel (Treasurer)
  • Haleigh McCarthy (Historian)

With Noelle Maoriello (SFK Club Advisor) at the helm, SFK will continue to inform and inspire others to “keep girls in school”!

Presbyterian Women

Our Thanks to the Presbyterian Women

On October 15th, KEEP had the pleasure of sharing our slide show presentation with the Presbyterian Women of the First Presbyterian Church of Katonah.

The Presbyterian Women are the inspiring group responsible for the amazing annual Katonah Rummage Sale! All proceeds from the Rummage Sale are donated to charity, and for the past two years, KEEP has been honored to be one of the many recipients of Rummage Sale funds.

After a delicious homemade buffet lunch, KEEP shared the story of our founding, and photos and information about our work in India and Kenya, followed by a brief question and answer session.

Thank you Presbyterian Women for inviting us to share our story, and for your very generous donations!

KEEP Event to see Malala movie

KEEP Event: Malala Movie

On Wednesday, October 14, 2015, over 40 friends of KEEP gathered to watch and discuss the film He Named Me Malala at the Jacob Burns Theater. This film profiles the extraordinary life of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who survived the Taliban’s attempt to kill her for speaking out on behalf of girls’ education. Subsequently becoming the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Malala now runs the Malala Fund “to ensure every girl has access to 12 years of free, safe, quality primary and secondary education.” Dovetailing with KEEP’s mission, Malala’s goals inspired film attendees and reinforced the importance of supporting the Kakenya Center for Excellence.

KEEP at The Running Goddess 5K

The 2015 Running Goddess 5K Raises Funds for KEEP

The 2015 Running Goddess 5K on Sunday, May 17, raised an incredible $3000 for the KEEP/KCE Project! Runners and walkers of all ages braved the challenging but gorgeous course of the Lasdon Park & Arboretum to raise awareness and funds to support women’s and girls’ health and education. KEEP is extremely grateful to the The Running Goddess Founder, Bettina Sementilli, and her outstanding team for creating and executing such a wonderfully spirited annual event which recognizes the importance and value of investing in girls’ education. KEEP is exceedingly honored to, once again, be a recipient of the funds from this year’s event and we look forward to supporting the TRG Races of the future.

KEEP in Woman's Day magazine

KEEP featured in Woman’s Day magazine

We are excited to announce that KEEP’s work has been featured in Woman’s Day magazine’s April 2015 issue.

See the full story here

Clicking on the image of the story should make it appear in a larger size.

KEEP visit to the Whitby School

In February, KEEP Board Members Celeste Crosby and Cynthia Braun visited The Whitby School in Greenwich, CT, to discuss KEEP’s work with seventh and eighth grade student members of the Model United Nations Club. Invited by Andy Greene, Whitby teacher and Model UN Club Advisor, Celeste and Cynthia presented a slide show detailing KEEP’s partnerships with Apne Aap and the Kakenya Center for Excellence. Photos from KEEP’s trip to India and from the KCE in Kenya gave the students an idea of the issues that face girls in developing countries. Many students expressed amazement that if they were typical girls in India or Kenya, they would be already preparing to marry. They commented upon the stark differences between educational opportunities for girls in the US compared to those in India and Kenya. Later, Andy Greene noted that KEEP’s presentation showed his students how a small group of people, or even one individual, could make a big difference in the lives of girls around the world.

KEEP Kenya Launch Party

On a cold winter’s night in February 2015, supporters gathered to celebrate the new partnership between KEEP and the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE). With traditional Kenyan Dawa cocktails to sip and exotic treats to nibble, attendees came together to toast the new venture. It was a heartwarming evening of solidarity with friends new and old committed to keeping girls in school.

Our new partnership with KCE in Kenya

Our New Partnership in Kenya

We are thrilled to announce a new partnership in our effort to keep girls in school: The Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE), a boarding school for girls in rural Kenya. These girls, who typically are forced to marry when entering puberty, instead pursue their education at KCE. Enrollment at KCE also protects all students from female genital cutting. Learning how KCE educates, protects and empowers these most vulnerable girls, we feel inspired and motivated to help. We have set a goal of sponsoring the fifth grade class of 37 girls. Please join us in forging this new relationship between two communities dedicated to education.

The 5th Grade at the Kakenya Center for Excellence
The 5th Grade at the Kakenya Center for Excellence

Apne Aap director Dr. Abhilasha Kumari visited Katonah

Apne Aap Director’s Visit Inspires KEEP Members New and Old

Under a waxing October moon, supporters new and old of the Katonah Education Exchange Program (KEEP) gathered to listen as Dr. Abhilasha Kumari, Director of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, spoke about the valuable impact KEEP is having on the ground in Bihar, India. Dr. Kumari, a woman of small stature but tremendous presence, mingled with guests at the home of Ruth Rosenberg and then gave a formal presentation.

While outlining specifics of the program like health screenings, academic supports, and enrichment classes, Dr. Kumari interspersed vignettes about the girls and their lives in the red light district: how a troop of girls returned exhilarated and triumphant after having convinced the parents of one of their group members to delay an early marriage in favor of staying in school, how another group of girls confronted local police officials to address the harassment they experienced as they made their way to and from school each day, and the momentous occasion when Poonam and Resham accepted diplomas, their mother uneducated and prostituted as a young girl herself, standing beside them.

Dr. Kumari did not shy away from sharing the less-glowing reports. She paused from speaking for a moment when the picture of a particular young woman with bright eyes came on the screen. This girl, she explained, had gone missing while visiting her family. All Apne Aap’s efforts to locate and return her to safety had been stymied. The trail was cold. She was lost. Stories such as these brought some of the realities the girls and staff living and working in the red light districts of India must face – never mind the inconsistent electrical power, harassment and imprisonment of employees, and deep-seated hindrances presented by acculturated inter-generational prostitution. Keeping the girls physically safe is an ever-present challenge.

She spoke about implementing feedback from meeting with the KEEP board in the spring, in particular, taking the girls on field trips. The excursion to a public park in the mountains spurred a paradigm shift for young women who have literally never left the neighborhood in which they were born. Experiencing in a small way, the concept that there is a wider world where things can be different was new and powerful for these youngsters.

The visit from Dr. Kumari, with her impassioned and frank conversation with KEEP illustrated her deep connection and commitment to the program as a whole and to the girls as individuals. It was a step in further affirming one of KEEP’s primary charter intentions: to be connected to the change we wish to effect – to people beyond their ‘profile’ and even beyond the organizations that strive to assist them.

Cynthia Braun concluded the presentation describing the common experience of reading and hearing about horrendous situations around the world and feeling powerless. KEEP’s connection with Apne Aap gives one something to do. It’s real change, with real people.

Dr. Abhilasha Kumari
Dr. Abhilasha Kumari, director of Apne Aap Worldwide

2 KEEP Sisters Graduate

KEEP Fall News Update

KEEP Superstars Start College
Our first KEEP graduates are starting college this fall! Poonam and Resham Khatun have matriculated at Arvind Mahila College in Patna, a women’s college affiliated with Magadh University. Although their older sister was married at age nine, Poonam and Resham enrolled in KEEP’s program and are now among the first young women from their community to attend college. The sisters will study Economics, Sociology, Political Science, English and Hindi. Resham aspires to take her studies “very far” (pursue higher degrees) and Poonam plans to become a lawyer to fight for the rights of girls and women in her community.

With funds raised to date, KEEP will pay the tuition expenses (totaling $3,000) for Poonam and Resham this year. Moving forward, KEEP hopes to raise the additional monies needed to continue this crucial support for these ambitious and determined young women throughout their college years.


Runners Race for KEEP
The Running Goddess 5K on June 2 raised an amazing $4,000 for KEEP! 287 runners and walkers hit the trails of Lasdon Arboretum on a beautiful spring morning to race for fitness, fun and philanthropic goals. Running Goddess founder, Bettina Sementilli, and Race Director, Annie Bai, created this race to promote well-being, build community spirit and support the education of at-risk girls here and abroad. We are extremely grateful to The Running Goddess for such generosity and dedication to improving the lives of girls worldwide. Thank you to all the KEEP members who participated.
Running Goddess 5K Benefits KEEP


Apne Aap Wins Big in Huffington Post Contest
Thanks to the Running Goddess’ donation to Apne Aap on behalf of KEEP, Apne Aap finished among the top ten organizations in the Huffington Post’s RaiseForWomen Challenge. Collecting over $32,000 in donations in response to this challenge, Apne Aap won numerous prizes from the Huffington Post, including the opportunity to publicize Apne Aap’s efforts though Huff Post blogs, tweets and a front-page article.
Fundraising Thanks KEEP


JJHS Welcomes Students for KEEP
John Jay High School student Susannah Rogers, inspired by her pen-pal connection with the girls in Bihar, founded Students for KEEP in the summer of 2012. Last fall, Students for KEEP became an official club at John Jay High School to raise awareness of the issues affecting at-risk girls in India and help underwrite their education. The club brought in hundreds of dollars for the cause with their “KEEP the Change” fundraiser, placing canisters at local businesses to collect loose change. The club also presented a film, Born into Brothels, to the JJHS freshmen as part of a ninth grade debate on traditional gender roles around the world. For many, the event was eye-opening. Club members also fundraised with bake sales throughout the year and enjoyed participating in the Running Goddess 5K.

Susannah is now working on a project with Apne Aap Women Worldwide, creating a pamphlet that Apne Aap can distribute to younger children as a way of explaining the women’s movement in age-appropriate terms.
students for KEEP


Apne’s Aap’s New Director Visits Katonah
In May, Apne Aap’s new Director, Abhilasha Kumari, visited Katonah to meet KEEP’s board members and provide an update on KEEP activities. Ms. Kumari, who joined Apne Aap in December, expressed deep gratitude for the many ways that KEEP is making a difference in the lives of girls in Bihar, India. She described the difficult and often dangerous job of outreach workers who enroll girls in KEEP’s educational programs. However, despite many challenges, the work is extremely rewarding: once out of the brothels, KEEP girls are escaping enforced prostitution and learning skills that will enable them to support themselves. The early success of this model has impressed Ms. Kumari, who hopes to develop similar projects in other Indian communities.
Abhilasha visit KEEP director


Girl Rising Raises Awareness
In March, KEEP hosted a reception following the screening of a new documentary film entitled Girl Rising in Bedford. This film tells the story of nine amazing girls from nine different countries who dream of attending school. In their struggle to rise above enormous obstacles, they draw upon deep reserves of courage and determination. Inspired by these girls’ stories, attendees gathered after the film at Erica’s Kitchen to enjoy wine and cheese and discuss the importance of supporting girls’ education throughout the world. Heartfelt thanks to all of you who joined us and especially to Erica Miller Wallace of Erica’s Kitchen for so graciously subsidizing this special event.
Girl Rising raises awareness


KEEP Meets Fundraising Goals
At the end of April, KEEP concluded its second year of successful fundraising. Thanks to all of you, we have raised $10,800 each year for the past two years to fund our educational program for 160 girls in Bihar, India. KEEP pen pals in Katonah and Bihar continue to write letters to each other, which provides a wonderful sense of connection. You all, as a community, have been incredibly supportive and generous in helping KEEP achieve its mission of keeping girls in school. As we move forward into our third year, we thank you for making this goal a reality.
Running Goddess Donation
The Running Goddess 5K raised $4,000 for KEEP, helping Apne Aap win the Huffington Post challenge and helping KEEP meet our annual fundraising goal.