“Dream and dream more and don’t be afraid to dream big.” This is advice a very close friend of Rina Ntagozera’s once gave her. Although never one to shy away from dreaming, Rina has come across times in her life that such encouragement was needed.
With life having thrown several roadblocks her way, Rina has made the choice to remain positive despite her circumstances and has seemingly used her pain to fuel her dreams even further. Today, she has just realized something she has long hoped for – attending university – which she plans to use to help her country achieve its own dreams…
In 2005, Rina and her family moved from Kenya to Rwanda. Rina’s parents, both native Rwandans, left in the 1960’s around the time of the country’s independence and separately settled in Kenya where they met. Anxious to return, Rina’s father was offered a job that would bring his family home. So without hesitation, the entire Ntagozera family relocated to Kigali, Rwanda. At just 12 years old, the shift required Rina to adapt to a whole new life – but with family by her side, she remained encouraged.
“When I was in S4 [10th grade], my Dad used to take me to school every morning. Each morning he would ask me the same question: “Why can’t you be number one; what do others have that you don’t?”
While she was still in high school, Rina’s father passed away unexpectedly. His death came just days before his daughter achieved what he had championed every morning – she became number one at her school. Amidst the grief and pain of loss, the Ntagozera’s struggled to get up on their feet again – both emotionally and financially.
“Losing my dad shook the whole family up and I wanted to give up on life at some point but like I said, I am lucky to have a loving family otherwise; I would not be where I am today.”
In 2011, Rina was working for the Rwandan Cricket Association as the administrative assistant, but still dreaming of a college education in the U.S.. A friend told her about Bridge2Rwanda Scholars. The deadline had passed to apply, but Rina decided to take her chances. To her surprise, she was accepted to the program and began in May of 2011.
“The program has taught me a lot. I have learned the value of hard work, time management and responsibility. I learned to interact with different people and to be able to think critically. The program gave me a chance to believe that one day my dreams can come true and I have to work hard to realise them.”
With the help of the Scholars program, Rina received a 613 on her TOEFL and raised her SAT score from a 1500 to a 1660 – a 160-point jump! With these scores, she applied to eight American universities and in April 2012 accepted a full scholarship to Haverford College in Pennsylvania. Haverford is a top 5 liberal arts college and the scholarship Rina has been awarded is around $57,000 a year.
Rina plans to study computer science – one of the two things she is passionate about working with in the future; the other being kids. Outside of academics, Rina is most excited to experience the cultural differences between Rwanda and the United States and also to try the variety of junk food the U.S. famously has to offer.
After obtaining her degree, Rina plans to return to Rwanda and live a life that positively impacts those around her. She hopes to use her education to change her country for the better or as she put it, “to see it in a much better position than I found it.”
“I pray, hope and believe that Rwanda will be way up there and still going on ahead and I hope that I will be part of it by using my education, talents and abilities – be it in computers or economics – to keep it there and take it way further. I hope to be able to bring development in the rural areas and to hopefully reduce the percentage of those under the poverty line by teaching them and helping them understand the benefits of technology. I hope to make work easier for everyone as they target the goals they have put before them.”
Just as Rina has not allowed anything to slow her down in life, she describes that she is just a microcosm of a country that embodies her same tireless and hope-filled determination, “Take a close look and be keen to see how far Rwanda has come and how far it is going. We are not slowing down for whatsoever reason!”