At age 12, Jean Nsabumuremyi was on the run for his life. He was alone in Kigali, Rwanda, in 1994, the year of genocide in that country. When the killing suddenly began in April, he fled with his family and many others into the panic on the streets, joining a crowd of refugees looking for a safe way out of the city. He quickly lost his way.
"I remember when I left my home we were all separated," he said. "I remember I saw some of my classmates die. It was a very painful thing. Right now I can tell you I have very few classmates still alive."
After a day on his own, Nsabumuremyi found his mother and his four brothers and two sisters, who were able to escape because his father, who was out of the country at the time, had friends in the government.
The family fled to the Congo to escape the violence in their country, worrying on the journey – each night in a different hiding place – that they would be discovered and killed by roving militias.
A politically unstable environment in the Congo forced the family to move again, this time to Zambia. They spent one and a half years in a United Nations refugee camp before being resettled in the United States in 1996.
"It was very beautiful but very different," Nsabumuremyi said about coming to America. "Everything’s new; you have to relearn everything."
Nsabumuremyi got a job and struggled at first to learn English, but he knew he wanted to make something of himself.
"I definitely wanted to get somewhere. My plan was to go to a college to at least get a good job," he said. "I wanted to help myself and help the community."
He chose the Community College of Rhode Island, starting classes in fall 2006.
"It’s a wonderful place, I’ve met great people here," he said. "I could never have made it without the people around here."
Nsabumuremyi became involved on campus and in the community, all according to his plan. This year, he was president of the student government at the Liston Campus in Providence, where he attended classes. Nsabumuremyi said he is proud of the student government, which worked to get students involved on the campus while they often juggled full-time job obligations.
"If you work with a team and you are in charge, you learn a lot of things," he said.
Nsabumuremyi is also a math tutor for students at Dorcas Place Adult and Family Learning Center in Providence, which promotes literacy and job skills for low-income adults.
Nsabumuremyi’s ultimate goal is to work with the United Nations Development Program in Africa.
At the end of April he found out that he is one step closer to that goal. He has been accepted to Cornell University, where he will major in international development.
No matter where he goes, Nsabumuremyi said he will always be grateful to CCRI.
"I could never have managed without the people [at CCRI]," Nsabumuremyi said. "It’s a wonderful place."