Priscilla Megalaa ’12 grew up in Cairo, Egypt, and, over the years, has made her home on three different continents. Her diverse experiences have taught her a deep sense of interconnectedness both to people and nature. “Understanding our interconnectedness holds us responsible to more than just ourselves in the choices we make,” Megalaa says. “I try to hold that with intention wherever I go.”
At Calvin, Megalaa majored in political science and international development. She served as both vice president and president of Calvin’s chapter of Amnesty International. “The best part of Calvin was the sense of community and support.” She still appreciates how “all the professors took such care with us.”
Megalaa calls her semester abroad at the University of Ghana, Legon, the most formative of her undergraduate experiences. “Professor David Hoekema led the Ghana program. He was kind of a dad to us during that semester,” she fondly remembers. Living in Ghana influenced her desire to work in social impact, and, she says, it may have something to do with her full circle return to working on the African continent.
Megalaa’s journey from Cairo to Grand Rapids to Madagascar has been far from direct, however. From Calvin, she volunteered for one year with Americorp, choosing a placement at a public charter preschool called Briya in Washington D.C. Designed for immigrant families, “Briya’s program was very holistic. It had a two-generational approach where parents learned English while their children attended preschool. Seeing the impact
that model had on families got me interest- ed in how education can transform lives,” Megalaa says.
In 2017, Megalaa graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a master of science in conflict resolution and governance. Her career led her to Berlin, where she worked in peacebuilding at the Berghof Foundation and then as head of programs and impact at Lilipad e.V., a nonprofit that creates multilingual libraries for children at refugee accommodation centers in Germany’s capital city.
Today, Megalaa serves as the fundraising and hiring coordinator at Onja, a social enterprise in Toamasina, Madagascar, that trains underprivileged youth in software development, then helps them secure remote jobs in E.U. and U.S. companies. The young developers reinvest a portion of their salaries into future Onja students’ educations, support their families, and contribute to the economic growth of their communities. “The most important aspect of Onja’s model is that developers are proud to be working to pay their own way,” Megalaa says.
Megalaa approaches each next step in her life with curiosity—a value that has guided her “in surprising directions.” Faith acts as the “grounding force, something you can turn back to in moments where the next step isn’t just your next job, but your next calling. It allows you to hold a perspective on life that gives it more meaning and helps with decision making.”
Over the last year, Megalaa says she’s spent a lot of time reflecting on her life path. “You never know where you’re going to end up, but you discover yourself along the way. I think that’s the most exciting thing. Because I never imagined I would end up where I am now, and I’m so excited, so happy to be here. It’s given me a mindset to be open to growth and open to learning.”