Denis is a 14-year-old 9th grader at Mali Rising's Sue Chung Chiu Middle School in Simidji. She walks an hour each way to get to the school, and she is determined to make the trip worth her while.

Denis is lucky to be surrounded by family and friends. She makes her long walk to school with her 3 sisters. At home, she also has 3 brothers and her parents. In all, her extended family includes about 30 people in her village.

She also has a best friend -- Fatoumata Samake. They like to play alexies (a game) together, and Denis is sure she is the better player. The two friends also study together.

This must make her days more fun, because studying is a big party of Denis' life. Her favorite subject is English, and she dreams of visiting an English-speaking country some day. Her least favorite subject is math because she finds it difficult to understand. However, Denis is confident she will pass the big graduation exam (called the DEF) this year: "I am not nervous to pass my DEF exams because I study well in class and I have very good notes."

We hope Denis does as well as she plans because she has very big plans. She hopes to study through the university level, and wants to become a doctor so she can look after people.

Denis is benefiting from our new Girls Project, which focuses on recruiting and retaining girls at our school. She volunteered how much she enjoys the monthly Girls Group meetings where girls learn new skills to help them succeed. She said, "Today I learned a lot about leadership skills. Now I too can teach these skills to other people."

When we asked what she would do if she could change anything in the world, Denis had a simple answer: "I am going to change the financial situation of my parents."

We hope Denis' parents are as proud of her as we are! 16/17