To get to school every morning, 17-year-old Khadija has to walk an hour down a rocky road under the blazing sun to Morocco’s southern coastal city of El Jadida—some 20 kilometers from her small village. Her determination to make that daily trip, however, is a recent development. Khadija admits she had considered dropping out of school on numerous occasions. “I live farther than the other girls from the school, and there was no one to walk with me on my route. I felt isolated, and didn’t want to talk to any of my classmates,” she confides. When her teacher suggested she join the Life Skills Club at her school, she accepted, even though she had little faith it would make a difference. “I didn’t really have a goal in life. When you live here, you lose hope. Also, I never thought my parents would let me go into town to finish my studies,” she explains. “You know how it is here; young girls have to stay at home to help with household chores.”

Joining the Club, however, changed Khadija’s feelings of isolation and despair, and gave her the confidence she needed to move forward in her life. From her first visit there, Khadija felt she belonged. The Club, which uses the International Youth Foundation’s Passport to Success® curriculum, helps equip young people with important life and employability skills, including effective communication, problem solving, teamwork, and responsibility. “I quickly got rid of the obstacles that were holding me back,” she says. “I was so happy that finally someone was interested in young girls like me in the countryside. I fit right into the group and grew real friendships thanks to the Club—which allowed me to feel less alone.”

Khadija was also excited to share what she’d learned with her family. “At home, I often imitate the teacher. I teach my mother, who is illiterate, how to manage her time and her budget,” she says. “And even my brothers and sisters have changed. Today when we eat together, we’ve learned to listen to one another. Before it was chaotic; everyone talked at the same time and no one listened to each other.”

Khadija’s father, a local farmer, looks with new admiration at his daughter. “She’s growing,” he says. “She asserts herself. Before, I was scared to let her go by herself into town. Now I feel she is capable of doing it.” His daughter agrees she has changed. “I feel like I’m really 17 years old. I’ve matured,” Khadija says. “Before, when I saw all the girls from the town I didn’t like them. Today, having talked about it with others at the Club meetings, I don’t judge them anymore. I feel I can face them, and command their respect.” Khadija plans to be a doctor one day—an ambitious goal that reflects a new level of confidence and purpose in her life.

Next school year, she is looking forward to making that long walk into town every morning. This time, to attend high school.