The Female Pioneers of CRS 1989

Every pioneer has a life story and a life lesson. In 1989, 40 young women, aged 13-16, stepped onto Clinton’s campus and unknowingly forever altered the course of CRS and their own lives.  They were courageous settlers of a new home, a new spirit, and new opportunities that reached hundreds of young women years following. Where are they now? Thirty years after CRS first started girls’ programming, 6 of those pioneers shared a glimpse of their Camp experience, of their post-Camp life, and of the lessons they carry with them! Each pioneer from 1989 was interviewed by me, Monica Janvier, one of the over 1,600 young women who have followed in their footsteps! 

Meet Grace Kombe


Grace grew up in Zambia, specifically in Kalulushi and Copper Belt, a mining town. Her father worked as an Accountant and her mother managed the household. Throughout Grace’s childhood, her father was one of her role models. 

She reflected on his passing in September 2015:

He was a different kind of parent... He always appreciated everyone’s contribution to the family. The fondest memory of all of us is having family meetings whenever there was something happening, worth mentioning to discuss, if there was a problem, whenever we had a crisis and decisions had to be made he always considered the input of every family member no matter how young or inexperienced they were.
Grace and her father at an airport in Zambia before camp.

Grace and her father at an airport in Zambia before camp.

Grace admires her father’s accepting nature and how he made decisions by considering the input of everyone. Although Grace still values this strategy, she also values the idea that some of the best decisions are made by valuing your own beliefs and outlooks on life. 

The CRS Decision  

When Grace decided to fly to New York for CRS, it was the first time she had ever been in the United States. As the oldest child of 6 other siblings, Grace carried an especially heavy sense of responsibility throughout her journey. 

As some people in the world decided to focus on differences that separate people, Grace made the decision to view the world through a “colorblind” lens. 

“Believe it or not, there was a time growing up... -I think it was probably before my fourth grade- I never saw color. All I saw was the person… and color was not a factor. I think that is something marvelous that I think the whole world could learn from. If we act colorblind the world would be such a better place.”

This strategy of being “colorblind” helped her connect with others as she became known for crossing ethnic lines and becoming friends with every camper.

Grace reflected on learning about different cultures: 

I remember we even made a trip to the boys’ camp and we put on a show there as well. We danced… [a camp counselor] taught a Spanish dance...It was so fun.
Grace collage.jpg

The Career Decision

After leaving Clinton, Grace was soon confronted by a conflicting, life question:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Grace graduated from a mine (Trust) school in 1991 and the University of Zambia in 1996. For most of her life, the mining community would sponsor her and other students throughout their educational career. Due to their sponsorship, they were expected to show their appreciation for the mining community by working in mining-related jobs. However, against the norms of her community, Grace began her own educational center in 2017 called Learn for Life Learning Support Center, located in Kitwe, Copperbelt Province, Zambia. 

Grace reflected on the outraged reactions of others: 

I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d become an educator...Most people would even scoff and laugh at the idea. They’d be like, ‘What are you doing- are you crazy? Why are you wasting your college education and going into a field that’s so low paying? You’ll never amount to anything’ .

Despite these reactions, Grace proudly continued to establish her educational center. 

“I believe that if you’re doing something that you love, and you truly are passionate about, you will never work a day in your life.”

Learn for Life Learning Support Center is a multinational and multiracial center that educates children from ages 5 to 18. This center became a Cambridge Associate School supervised by British Council Zambia which offers assistance in professional development for the school’s staff. 

I believe that Grace’s courageous decision to break away from her community’s expectations and defy the norms by pursuing her passion for teaching, is an element that makes her educational center even more impactful on the lives of her students. 

What especially warmed my heart is Grace’s commitment to teaching students to celebrate and appreciate their different abilities. She enforces the notion that any child can thrive whether they are or aren’t “academically gifted” or if they have disabilities. 

She powerfully said, “They call them disabilities, but I say abilities that make them differently abled.” 


Grace Kombe's school.png