Authors: Charlotte Buck, Katherine Pew, and Andrea Baric
Leaders of the Agnes Irwin Akilah Club
We are students at the Agnes Irwin School in Pennsylvania and form the leadership of our school’s Akilah Club. International Women’s Day on March 8 provides a chance to reflect on our role in inspiring positive change for girls and women around the world.
The Akilah Club was founded in 2010 by former Agnes Irwin students Alex Pew and Nora Buck. Alex Pew and her sister Katherine Pew first got involved with Akilah during a family trip to Rwanda. As education enthusiasts, the Pew family wanted to learn about local schools. Their father, Derek Pew, got in touch with Akilah CEO & Co-founder Elizabeth Dearborn-Hughes, who invited them to campus. When the family traveled to Africa in 2010, they had a chance to meet Akilah faculty and staff and were inspired by their dedication to women’s education in a post-conflict country. Once they returned, Alex asked her classmate Nora Buck to start a club together in their high school to support Akilah. Thus, the Akilah Club was born!
After Nora and Alex graduated, their younger sisters Charlotte Buck and Katherine Pew decided to partner with fellow student Andrea Baric, who has been part of the club since its founding in 2010, in order to lead the Akilah Club forward. As a child of Bosnian refugees, Andrea draws upon some personal parallels with the Akilah women in East Africa: Bosnia experienced a civil war at the same time Rwanda did.
The Akilah Club grew and evolved beyond fundraising for Akilah scholarships into a means for Agnes Irwin girls to bond and communicate with Akilah students. Through the Akilah Club, Agnes Irwin students are able to to discover and learn from the differences and similarities between us, and to interact with Rwandan culture in a profound way. Akilah students constantly inspire us with their passion for learning and perseverance through hardship. They are driven to change their local and global communities in a meaningful way. Agnes Irwin students witness this when Akilah students travel to the U.S. every year as part of Akilah’s annual Metropolitan Safari tour and speak in front of our entire school.
To further the interaction between the two schools, the Akilah Club holds fundraisers, exchanges pen pal letters, and video chats with Akilah students. Most recently, we held the Hoopla, which is the major fundraising event we organize every year since 2010. The Hoopla is a student-faculty basketball game where the Agnes Irwin School’s varsity basketball team squares off against the faculty. This year, we sold pizza and baked goods and raised over $250 for Akilah in one night!
Charlotte and her family are currently planning a trip to Rwanda and Burundi this summer to come and visit Akilah while exploring all that the country has to offer. They are very excited to meet everyone and see firsthand what they have been able to support in their efforts with the Agnes Irwin Akilah Club and their classmates and faculty. In our corner of the world, we are proud to empower Rwandan young ladies — who have so much in common with us, as we found out!