11 December

Video: A Remarkable Student Needs Some Tuition Help

by Jon Katz

Uwamahoro Muhorakeye is a new senior at Bishop Maginn High School. She calls herself “Peace” because no one in America can pronounce her name. She spent the first 18 years of her life in a Rwandan refugee camp after she and her family fled the Rwandan Genocide.

She needs some help so she can stay in Bishop Maginn High School for the one year she desperately needs so she can apply to college and become a family practitioner She means to be a doctor.

We’re hoping we can raise $4000, the school’s special rate for refugees. Contributions are tax-deducible.

I won’t lie to you, Principal Mike Tolan doesn’t kick kids out of the school over money. That’s why the school is so broke. The Catholic Church doesn’t have much of a tuition aid budget these days.

So we are trying to help, we’ve paid the tuition of eight refugee students who now attend the school, they can remain until graduation. One refugee student had his hair set on fire at the high school, a young female refugee student now at Bishop Maginn was beaten so badly in her school she was hospitalized for several days.

We’re hoping to raise the $4,000 for her senior year tuition, or get as close as we can.

If you meet Peace, as I did today, you will have no doubt she will be a doctor or anything else she might decide to do.

This week, she transferred from Albany High School to Bishop Maginn High School so she could have smaller classes, and deal with less violence and disorder.

She said her teachers were nice but overwhelmed at the public school. Mike Tolan said she is an outstanding student and human being, and there was no question about admitting her.

He also said her family can’t afford to pay tuition. Her father, who was a successful farmer in Rwanda before the genocide there, works at Dunkin Donuts cleaning the floors.

Peace says she is very happy to be at Bishop Maggin, it is safe and supportive and she is learning a great deal. In just a few weeks, she’ll have to deal with the trauma of applying to college.

Her family lost everything in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, almost all from the Tutsi minority.

Peace is a Tutsi.

(If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to Peace’s tuition, please send a check to Principal Mike Tolan, Tuition For Peace, 75 Park Avenue, Albany, N.Y., 12202 (518 463-2247).

In the genocide, the family farm and everything else the family-owned was destroyed. They lost many friends and family members. She says she and her brothers and sisters are lucky to be alive.

She also said she was lost in the city’s high school, she has found herself at Bishop Maginn.

Like so many of the refugee children I speak with Peace has no complaints or self-pity for what happened to her and her family.

She is cheerful, courteous,  piercingly intelligent, an honor student (she learned excellent English in a little over a year) and Bishop Maginn is thrilled to have her. I think she has great things ahead of her.

She thanked me a dozen times for helping her and her family keep her at Bishop Maginn.

I will be meeting with her again next week and following her journey through her senior year at Bishop Maginn, and her application process for college. The Bishop Maginn staff is proud of the fact that every student in the school who wants to go to college goes to college.

Peace and her family were admitted to the United States just before the country’s immigration policies changed so radically. She would not be admitted to the country today.

I have no doubt Peace will get into college and be a doctor. She has the brains, the heart, and the charisma. She is very worthy of our help.

We just have to help the school keep her for this one year. (Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Mike Tolan, Principal, Bishop Maginn High School (Peace Tuition Fund), 75 Park Avenue, Albany, N.Y., 12202, 518 463-2247.)

Thanks for helping. This school changes lives.


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