Jessica is the co-founder of Shining Hope for Communities, a non-profit that combats extreme poverty and gender inequality in Kibera—Africa’s largest slum. Shining Hope runs the Kibera School for Girls—the slum’s first free school for girls, as well as a community health clinic, clean toilet initiative, youth and community education, and economic development initiatives. Jessica is a nationally recognized social entrepreneur and activist. She won the 2010 Do Something Award and was named “America’s top-world changer 25 and under” live on VH1. Jessica also received the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University in May 2009 with honors in African-American Studies. She is twenty-four-years-old and fluent in Swahili.
What inspires you? What do you believe in?
“Kennedy always inspires me because he fought against all odds to create remarkable change in both his community and his own life. I am always moved to action by the resilience of our students and community members who face daunting odds, but hang on to their dreams of a better life. I will never forget August 18th, 2009: the day we dedicated the Kibera School for Girls, along with the community, demonstrating a collective belief in the power of hope. I believe strongly in always cultivating awareness of the challenges in your path. Then, I believe in moving forward not in spite of, but because of these great challenges. Things happen when we keep going while everyone around us tells us to give up. I think there is magic in what others might call crazy, that there is always the possibility for rupture when we dive in headfirst, and don’t look back.”