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Meet Marlene Ongweny Maina of JosiahKids in Duluth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marlene Ongweny Maina.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Marlene. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
It started as a simple thought to teach our two young daughters the word of God and all the practical things that would help us invest in their personal growth and development. A year later, my husband Newton and I were converting our dining room into a small neighborhood discipleship classroom. Within the first year following the grand opening, JosiahKids had maxed out our dining room capacity—and gradually morphed into what we now know as The School of Young Leaders.

There were three main questions we had in mind when we started JosiahKids. What critical convictions, values, skills and virtues are children not getting in their formative years? How could we help families like our own invest those critical values without the burden of exuberant costs or the strain for bandwidth that has left families overextended and maxed out as they run from one activity to the next across town? Three, how could we leverage our network of amazing leaders to successfully build a central place where a community of young students could grow in wisdom, elevate creativity, nurture healthy relationships, discover the value of expression, and be fully equipped for the type of world they would soon be walking into? The answers to these key questions was the framework around which we built JosiahKids.

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Not at all. When we first started, JosiahKids we were both working full time. This meant that we were maxed out on all fronts. Late nights shopping and cooking for the class, ordering desks, setting up our own website, recruiting a board of directors, writing manuals, completing all the complicated paperwork required by the state and IRS and putting together a team was quite tedious. At some point it was fairly evident that it was time for me to let go of my full-time position at The Coca-Cola Company where I had worked for more than 16 years. This would allow us to give the growing organization the attention it both needed and deserved. This meant that we had to give up one very much needed income and great medical benefits—all while absorbing 100% of the costs related to running JosiahKids. We made a unified decision from the very beginning that our focus would stay on the mission—this of course also meant that we would have to fund all aspects of JosiahKids until we could find the right mission investors. It was tough to say the least. Shopping for insurance for our basketball program, paying the teachers every month, looking for a gym to rent, funding our Annual Award Ceremony have all been very real challenges that we have had to walk through. When we finally outgrew the classroom, we knew it was time to find a new location. To call it a daunting task would be a true understatement but let me also be quick to add that God has been so faithful to us, meeting us at (EVERY) point of need. Breathing HIS breath of life on what we are doing and filling the children in our program with a tangible joy that encouraged all of us to keep going! True, it takes dedication, lots of sacrifice, persistence in prayer, true belief in the calling of God to serve our generation well, but it also takes plain old hard work, a passionate selfless team, incredible families and friends who offer love and support at every turn, and of course there’s that main, mighty pillar on our side—the God of Jacob who never let’s go! It is HE who has made all of this possible. HE deserves all the glory for it. And we know the best is yet to come!

JosiahKids – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
So, who is JosiahKids? JosiahKids is a faith based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to educate, empower and equip young students and TEENS in the local community in the areas of faith, leadership, community service and the arts.

Our program is for young students ages (7-12) and TEENS ages (13-19) and we are in session twice every month from September through May. While students are with us, they are learning the Bible, hearing from quality guest speakers such as athletes, artists, attorneys, authors, doctors, song writers to name a few. While with us, students are also developing a healthy self-image, learning the value of expression, elevating creativity in music and dance, learning how to set goals, enjoying a sense of belonging and learning how to grow into the type of servant leaders our world is so desperately in need of. This school year, we also added recreational skills and drills in basketball for students who want to enhance their fitness goals while enjoying the company of good friends.

Our young people are fighting a real war against hopelessness, violence, and heartbreaking despair. A child needs more than a program and a toy. A child needs JOY! This is what JosiahKids understands. The CDC reports for example, that suicide has remained the second leading cause of death for our young people ages 10-34. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also reports that North America continues to experience the highest drug-related mortality rate in the world. This does not have to be the future our young people will walk into. If it is true (and it is), that Substance abuse costs our Nation over $600 billion annually, then JosiahKids is a mission worth duplicating in every city because we truly believe (as Frederick Douglas put it) that it is much easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Without question, it would have to be my work as senior executive assistant for my former boss, Mark Eppert, CFO of Coca-Cola North America. Nine of my sixteen years at The Coca-Cola Company were spent working directly for him. I think I learned from him more about good leadership, caring for the business as well as the people, maintaining balanced objectives, taking care of the family, showing appreciation, coming in early, seeking to understand both the likes and pain points of the organization you are leading, than I learned from all the text books from my Masters in Leadership and Divinity, combined. He truly has been one of the biggest investors in my own personal growth—a gift I intend to pay forward to the younger generation coming up behind me.


  • JosiahKids Annual Tuition $250
  • JosiahTEENS Annual Tuition $300
  • JosiahKids & TEENS Recreational Basketball $100

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