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Augustana Observer

Nelle Conley, a journey to Kenya

Nelle Conley. Photo by Kevin Donovan

It takes a special person to dedicate a piece of their future to a high school of girls that they have never met, in a country very far from home. It takes someone like Nelle Conley, a senior Music Education major at Augustana, who is ready to embark on a volunteer teaching adventure in rural western Kenya.
In just a few weeks, Conley will be making her first trip to Kenya to meet the some of the girls she will be teaching music and the people she will be living with after graduation. In the beginning of July Conley will begin her six to nine month volunteer position at a high school who helps girls, who do not the right to a high school education, find their own voice.
Dr. John Pfautz, professor of music, has been Conley’s voice teacher over the last three and a half years. He describes Conley as adventurous, self-confident, energetic, and ready to take on any task. He believes that the flexibility and energy she has will help her in her future in Africa.
“I think Nelle grew up in a home where there were lots of instruments around and music was always a joyful occasion. I think that has helped cultivate this joy that she makes music with,” Pfautz said.
Conley’s mother is a music therapist, and growing up she has been able to see the benefits music can have for people. She wants to bring this experience into the lives of these girls who are searching for their own empowerment in a society that oppresses their voices.
“This school, they have never had a music program in their lives, and I think it would make all the difference to them, and kind of be able to let them experience something they never have,” Conley said.
Conley truly beams when she talks about this new adventure. She knows that she will work for her whole life, and she wanted to do something cool with what she has learned at Augustana before taking on her career in music education.
Conley believes that her education at Augustana has given her the courage to take on an experience like this. “I feel like if I didn’t end up going to Augustana, I wouldn’t be doing this right now,” Conley said.
“She has a great music education and she will be great at teaching in all the different age groups and she is just well prepared. But she brings things that we didn’t teach her. We didn’t teach her ukulele, well she knows ukulele from home, and that is a great instrument to work with to teach music skills to children,” Pfautz said.
Conley is taking donations on Gofundme to raise the money to buy plane tickets and musical instruments to bring to this school. She is really thankful for her hometown of Dekalb, Illinois for helping her with her fundraising efforts and goals.
Conley hopes to bring ukuleles, drums, music stands, and music books to the high school in Kenya. So far she has received a lot of donations to help fund the musical instruments, but still needs to raise the money for plane tickets, which are costly. However, she could not be more grateful for the help she has received this far.

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Nelle Conley, a journey to Kenya