Educators That Rock!

Alex Grossi
Alex Grossi

Educators That Rock!: Alex Grossi

March 25, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
While studying international development in Kenya as part of his final semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Alex Grossi was inspired to find ways to improve the educational opportunities for students there. After returning to the U.S. and graduating from college, he and a few friends created the Kenya School Libraries Program.

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FindingEducation interviewed Grossi, now living in Oregon, over the phone last week. “I never went to Kenya with the intention of doing something like this,” he said. “The opportunity just happened upon me and I couldn’t really say no.”

The Kenya School Libraries Program is slated to have 22,000 books delivered to 12 or 13 schools in Kenya by the beginning of the next school year. The organization’s last fundraising event—a dinner, raffle and silent auction—was held in Denver, Colo., on March 1. The auction included original artwork from the Maasai tribe of East Africa.

fE: How did the Kenya School Libraries Program get started?

AG: During my time in a place called Maua, which is in central Kenya, I got to know a principal and a librarian. The principal’s name was Nick Nyagah and the librarian’s name was Eliphas Kimathi. They spent a lot of time talking with me about development and where they saw their country going.

We realized that the excessive amount of [educational] material we have in the U.S could be easily transferred to places like rural Kenya. In essence, the plan was not to build libraries but to furnish them.

fE: How did you go from the idea of furnishing these libraries to actually building an organization and making it happen?

AG: I never went to Kenya with the intention of doing something like this. The opportunity just happened upon me and I couldn’t really say no. And to be honest, I didn’t really know what I was doing when I began. My friends [that had also studied abroad in Kenya] and I came back with the idea of collecting excess books from large organizations but we quickly learned that three individuals that just graduated from college don’t really have the capacity to store thousands and thousands of books.

So we were fortunate enough to find an organization called Books For Africa whose main mission is to store and house and ship books for programs like ours. We partnered with them in November.

And from there it became an even more manageable task. Now we can honestly say, “We have all of the books at our disposal, and for every dollar that we raise we’re giving two books to a student in Kenya.”

Read the rest of the Q&A with Alex Grossi at  findingEducation’s Digital Teachers’ Lounge.
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