Harambee, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s annual fashion show fundraiser, has been a staple of the school’s social calendar since 1998. Sponsored by the Alliance for Minority Business Students, the event brings the community together to raise money and awareness for the Global Scholars Academy, a school in neighboring Durham, N.C.
While it’s a great way for UNC Kenan-Flagler students to show off their hidden modeling talents and rip the runway, the show’s main goal is much deeper. Harambee is inspired by a Kenyan tradition of community development self-help events, and in this spirit, proceeds from the fashion show go to the Global Scholars Academy (GSA), a public, charter school that serves at-risk youth. This year’s show on March 23 raised more than $3,000.
“Harambee is Swahili for ‘coming together’ or ‘unity,’” said Tiffany Day (MBA ’14), an organizer. “It’s basically just representative of how Kenan-Flagler, the community and local vendors all come together for the purpose of supporting these kids at GSA.”
GSA is a year-round K-8 laboratory school that is reinventing public education in one of Durham’s most economically and socially distressed neighborhoods. With an extended school day, Mandarin Chinese courses, nutrition programs and other unique initiatives, the school provides children from a community plagued by poverty and violence with a clear path to higher education and a lifetime of success.
Opened in 2009, GSA was created by a partnership between Union Baptist Church in Durham and the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC Kenan-Flagler. UNC Kenan-Flagler professor James H. Johnson Jr. was a driving force behind the academy’s creation.
Johnson continues to find new ways to ensure the GSA students’ success and involve the broader UNC Kenan-Flagler community in that work. In addition to hosting Harambee, many business students regularly volunteer at the academy, where they help students refine their academic skills and get a jumpstart on networking. One of the core operating principles of the academy is a concept called “bridging social capital,” which has to do with the network of people in a student’s life who can make a positive difference.
“The more diverse your networks are, the better off you’re going to be,” said Johnson. “Kenan-Flagler is a global business school, so we have students from all over the world serving as tutors and mentors. Every child has two of these mentors each year. The outcome is by the eighth grade these kids already have 20 global connections in the world of business.”
During Harambee, these connections were showcased when business students shared the runway with GSA students, who earned loud cheers for striking poses on the catwalk and sharing their favorite subjects at school.
Models were outfitted by local retailers and boutiques: Belk, Hadley Emerson, Fedora, Johnny T-shirt and Symbology. They also showed off ensembles from their own closets, and several international students shared traditional outfits from their home countries. Before hitting the runway, models were treated to having their hair and makeup professionally done by Raleigh’s Paul Mitchell the School.
Whether they modeled, purchased tickets or helped spread the word about the event, UNC Kenan-Flagler students, faculty and staff all came together to make Harambee a success.
“The support from my classmates and the entire Kenan-Flagler community has been amazing,” said Day. “All week people were asking each other in the halls if they had their Harambee tickets yet. Everyone really came together on this.”