9th grade student at Thomas Jefferson

Where are you from? 

I’m from Rwanda but I’m Congolese. My parents are Congolese.

What was it like growing up?

It was good but if you are not Rwandese they treat you differently. They will scream and say bad words and call you Congolese. They might event beat you, but I had friends. On January 1st we celebrate the New Year, we walk, sing, dance and just do crazy things to have a good time. 

What brought you to Cleveland?

I am a refugee so my family was placed in Cleveland. In Rwanda you pay for school and it’s very expensive, it’s not easy to live there or to get food. It was good but it was a hard life there. 

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I was thinking I would see tall buildings, so when I arrived in Lorain I was surprised. It wasn’t what I thought, I assumed America would have white people only, I didn’t know it would be so diverse. In Africa I didn’t have a phone or computer so I thought I would just be given one here, but that didn’t happen (LOL). I did however find a place after church one day and they gave me an Obama phone. There are just so many differences from Rwanda. 

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here? 

When I first started here I was shy, so I only have about three friends. Making friends was hard, if you were in a camp you come here and they stick together, I wasn’t in a camp so they don’t really talk to me.  It was also very cold here. The food here was hard to adjust to, I don’t drink milk or cheese.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

We eat foo-foo which is a popular dish in Rwanda. We pray at home every night, we speak our native language at home- we actually speak five different languages at home and we sing. 

How have Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

It makes me happy, my parents are happy and it makes me happy to see them happy. School in Cleveland is free so my parents didn’t have to work too hard just to get me here. My teachers make me feel welcome.

What do you love about Cleveland?

I love the Cavs.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Cleveland? 

My favorite thing to do is come to school and sing in church.

Why is it important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

Because they are at war and people die, life is hard in other countries. People just want to be safe and happy.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

Because you get to see the difference between you and others. There are good things and bad things about all places. The more you travel the more you know.