Page intends to use the skills she gains at Harris to improve her nonprofit’s ability to provide tuition assistance to West African girls through cashew nut sales.
Headshot of Candy Page
Candy Page

Candy Page says her study abroad experience in Dakar, Senegal and Banjul, The Gambia changed her life. “I saw young girls sitting outside the US Embassy every day selling cashews. They were too young for ‘real’ work, so their families sent them out to sell cashews. I thought to myself, ‘Why aren’t these girls in school?’ As I learned more, I vowed to help these girls attend school. Having grown up in rural Oklahoma, education was one of the most important things in my life as a child,” Page said. “I understood those girls on a deep level. I had to step in.”

Page helped pay a few of the girls’ school fees but wanted to do something on a larger scale. She approached members of her church in Oklahoma and gathered donations for girls in Senegal and The Gambia. Page continued this work for several years, but said funding based purely on donations was not reliable enough to guarantee continuous educational access for all the girls. “I wanted to find a way to sustain donations so that the girls would know they would have funds each year.”

That is when Page founded Nuts About Education (NAE), Inc., which sells cashew products in the United States and uses the proceeds to fund quality education for girls in Senegal and The Gambia. The cashew products are currently sold in Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, and Giant Food Stores.

“African girls need education access,” Page said. “This is a critical element of Africa’s future.”

At first, Page ran NAE as a part-time job. She was a data analyst and economist at the Federal Aviation Administration and then worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs. But in 2019, she decided to work on NAE full time. “I embraced my passion. This is what I want to do for life. And I thought, ‘Now is the time.’”

While managing NAE, Page continually ran into policy issues that impacted the company and its goal of educating girls in Senegal and The Gambia. ”I did not have a policy background, which I needed to fully achieve NAE’s mission,” she said. As she evaluated graduate policy programs, she felt most programs were missing something.

“But when I looked at Harris, I thought, ‘There’s a university that understands what I’m talking about. They have the right frame of thinking about international development.’”

Page enrolled in the one-year Harris MA program. “I’m excited to learn from professors and students and brainstorm solutions to the challenges I am encountering. I need an incubator to teach me how to push my ideas forward because I haven’t scratched the surface of what NAE can do,” she said.

After Harris, Page will continue to run NAE. The company has carefully developed relationships with farming cooperatives in West Africa and plans to build processing plants to create jobs for parents so the parents do not have to rely on outside aid to pay for their children’s education. She hopes that educating girls will have ripple effects far into the future.

“Education is a powerful tool and I hope my project will have a significant impact on African women specifically and Africa in general. As a Black woman, I couldn’t be more proud.”