Kenyan student rises out of poverty, completes internship at Penn State Berks

Christopher Aredo, formerly a street-dwelling youth in Kenya, is currently completing an internship at Penn State Berks from Kenya Methodist University. His journey from Kenya to Penn State Berks was a long and winding one, and it brings a long-standing college collaboration full circle. In addition, Aredo is teaching a class on modern society in Kenya based on the writings of Chinua Achebe, author of "Things Fall Apart" and "No Longer At Ease." The class will be held in three sessions on Thursday, March 27.

Aredo is not sure of his birthday, but knows he was born in 1985, the eighth in an economically disadvantaged family in Kenya. After spending some time as a street-dwelling youth, he was accepted by the Kenyan National Youth Service, a paramilitary organization that provided education. After graduation in 2006, Aredo knew he wanted to help other street-dwelling youth, so he became a full-time volunteer with Children and Youth Empowerment Centre (CYEC) in Nyeri, Kenya, a nonprofit organization which provides residential care and education for former street-dwelling children, who must then transition to independent living.

While still a volunteer with CYEC, Aredo enrolled in Kenyan Methodist University in 2011 with a dual major in business and information technology, and had an opportunity to complete an internship. He chose Penn State Berks because of the collaboration between CYEC and Penn State, which began when Janelle Larson, associate professor of agricultural economics and division head of engineering, business and computing at Penn State Berks, was contacted by former classmate Paul Maina who was seeking the University’s expertise to help address a variety issues with the innovative school he established. Larson and others from Penn State Berks, as well as Penn State University, made several trips to Kenya to assist the CYEC beginning in 2009.

Then in May 2011, Penn State Berks students and their professor, Sadan Kulturel-Konak, traveled to Kenya to visit the CYEC and to teach the youth at the center a skill that would help to sustain them in the future. Since electronic waste is a major problem in Kenya, the Berks team decided to take this surplus waste and use it as a resource. Their goal was to teach the youth to make electronic jewelry from the precious metals, computer components, wires and plastics contained in the electronic waste and later sell the jewelry, using the profit for future educational advancements.

Aredo’s internship focuses in part on looking at mitigation measures in business to move the electronic jewelry project forward, including international marketing, and import/export.

For more information, contact Janelle Larson at 610-396-6183 or at JBL16@psu.edu.

Last Updated March 27, 2014