All In The Campaign for Blair Academy 2018-2025
students hike with Kenyan students
Blair in Kenya group photo 2024
Blair in Kenya classroom with Kate Sykes
students paint ABCs in Kenya
blair students and faculty on a hike in kenya
blair students at a school in kenya
Quint addresses blair and kenyan students
two students in a kenyan classroom
two students paint the alphabet
kelvin & quint
Blair Returns to Kenya
Ashley Schreyer

As Blair graduates continue their journeys beyond the hilltop, they are encouraged to enter the world with curiosity, empathy, respect and humility. Ethical community and civic engagement are hallmarks of our transformative education, and the development of strong intercultural learning skills in our students is in alignment with our five fundamentals. That is why it is no surprise that Quint Clarke ’87 and Kelvin Serem ’13 have achieved remarkable feats worlds away from the Academy—and their work isn’t done.

An Idea Takes Shape

This story unfolds in 2005, when Mr. Clarke founded the independent nonprofit Blair in Kenya to partner with local communities in rural Kenya to support the educational and medical needs of area children. Central to his vision was not merely providing aid but also fostering a collaboration between Americans and Kenyans. “Projects like this work best when there is a shared goal and shared responsibility,” he reflects. Back in those early days, in meetings with community leaders in a small village overlooking Lake Victoria, they identified the need for a school as a top priority. Soon, the team secured a land donation and ensured that construction and management of the school were organized locally. In January 2013, their efforts culminated in the opening of the Blair Educational Center, a private elementary school providing education as well as an on-site health clinic and nursing care to children in Kisumu, Kenya. Mr. Clarke vividly recalls, “The school was run by volunteers who shared our goals. Because we had no overhead—everyone working on this project from both America and Kenya was a volunteer—we were able to provide the services at a greatly reduced cost.”

Despite more than 7,000 miles separating Blairstown from his hometown in the western highlands of Kenya, Blair student Kelvin Serem remained deeply committed to the needs of his community. One day early in 2013, Kelvin approached Mr. Clarke at lunch. He hoped to join his teacher’s mission and bring Blair in Kenya to his own village to open a second school. With the help of Mr. Clarke and many others on a school committee that quickly formed at Blair, a five-room primary school emerged before long in Kelvin’s village of Kibargoiyet, catering to grades one through eight. Equipped with a kitchen and well, the school would soon provide daily breakfast and lunch to its students. Like the Blair Educational Center, the local community spearheaded construction efforts and continues to oversee the school’s day-to-day operations.

Today, the Blair Educational Center and Blair-Serem School educate more than 1,100 students from nursery school to ninth grade and sponsor 300 students’ educational expenses, and a new generation of Buccaneers are experiencing Blair in Kenya’s intercultural learning environment.

Returning with a New Generation

joyce lang quote

During this year’s J-term, 15 students traveled to the two schools—accompanied by Mr. Clarke, fine arts department chair Kate Sykes and Spanish teacher Alex Cullen—for a cultural immersion in western Kenya with their host, Kelvin. While their school visits were punctuated by wildlife excursions to experience the beauty of Kenya firsthand, the group spent the majority of their time getting to know the children and adults of these communities and learning about the challenges and opportunities in their lives.

“This trip was an educational adventure, and the education we provide at Blair is not just in the classroom but in life,” Mr. Clarke said. “It’s understanding the planet we live on, human nature and social issues. I believe the students on this trip returned more worldly and educated than when they left.”

Throughout the course, Kyle Douglas ’24 created a video blog of the group’s daily activities that he shared with the world through social media. Putting in the effort to edit and upload his work on site gave the travelers the ability to enlighten the Blair community back home on their experiences. With the help of classmates Carsten Viravec ’24 and John Izard ’24, Kyle composed a documentary-style video with interviews of Mr. Clarke, Kenyan students and school teachers during J-term. The interviewers asked the important questions of the village community: what were the needs and wants for the school to succeed? Blair in Kenya was able to utilize the video on their website and provide the nonprofit with an update they can share with their supporters.

“When you open the door and create these opportunities for our students, it’s amazing what they can learn,” Director of Experiential and Intercultural Learning Joyce Lang commented. “We don’t know what our partner communities aspire to. We can’t imagine it, nor can we appreciate in advance the ways in which we will grow from the experience. We need to enter new places with humility and open ears. The first step of community and civic engagement is listening in order to partner in a way that is mutually beneficial.”

Quint Clarke quote

Kyle described the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He went into the J-term with enthusiasm, eager to assist Mr. Clarke in updating media for Blair in Kenya. While Mr. Clarke travels to Kenya yearly, it has been several years since Blair students joined him on the trip. “My biggest takeaway was not to take anything for granted. It was incredible to see how people on a whole different continent live and how different their daily lives were from us,” Kyle reflected.

Kyle’s sentiments are echoed by Mr. Clarke, who underscores the significance of bridging communities and recognizing shared human aspirations. “It always feels special to pull my two worlds together—Blair and Kenya. We bring our students, who are so talented and thoughtful, to another community full of talented and thoughtful students who come from a very different background,” Mr. Clarke explained. “What strikes most of us is, although there are many differences between us, our similarities are more important. At the end of the day, we all as humans want the same things and strive for the same goals.”

To view videos from the trip, visit @blairinkenya on Instagram.

News Headlines