July 4, 2013
In January of 2013, Agahozo-Shalom graduated its first class. 118 students, in a ceremony attended by supporters of the Village including His Excellency President Paul Kagame, were honored and acknowledged for achieving what only four years earlier seemed like an impossible dream.
Our first class of students--the "Urumuli" grade, which means light--arrived at Agahozo-Shalom before much of the physical Village had been completed, trusting that what they would be able to achieve in their time here was worth taking the chance. They graduated in January and, on June 27, 2013, at the Sports View Hotel in Kigali, 103 of those 118 students, a mere six months after graduating from Agahozo-Shalom, made the journey from all corners of Rwanda to gather together again. The ecstatic students were a sea of smiling faces as they greeted one another with enthusiastic exclamations, hugs and kisses.
The event officially launched a new program at Agahozo-Shalom that focuses on our Alumni. Dubbed the “Alumni Launch,” this event attracted an extraordinary number of students, a testament to the close ties these students have formed with each other and with ASYV. The high numbers serve as encouragement for Agahozo-Shalom staff that these young people will continue to stay connected to the Village and to one another and that the connections they’ve formed are lasting.
It is our hope that, with the support of the newly formed Alumni program, these students will serve as Agahozo-Shalom Ambassadors to the greater Rwandan community and the world, sharing the ASYV mission, vision of the future and embodying this Village’s core values in all that they do.
While attending the Alumni Launch, Urumuli graduates discussed the benefits of being Alumni of a place like Agahozo-Shalom. They expressed confidence that they would all maintain lifelong relationships with each other and with the Village. As a secondary goal, the Alumni Launch focused on providing students with personal and professional opportunities for growth. The guest of honor for the day was the Honorable Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the Minister of Youth and Information Communication Technology (ICT). In his speech he emphasized the importance of our graduates staying motivated and the value of being selectively selfish; his hope is that they continue to persevere despite challenges they’ll face.
Featured speakers also included Ms. Beatrice Umwiza, who gave a presentation about customer care and the service industry in Rwanda. Mr. Gordon of the Development Workforce Authority (WDA) gave a presentation about the opportunities available through technical schools in Rwanda. He said, “The eyes that see are very rare. The eyes that look are very common. Let us be the eyes that see far!” encouraging Urumuli graduates to continue on their paths towards their dreams and emphasizing the existence of resources to help them.
Agahozo-Shalom's very own Dimitrie Sissi, Coordinator for Advocacy & Partnership, presented the benefits of being Alumni and the importance of maintaining a connection to the Village and to each other. Together, the Agahozo-Shalom management team and former staff gathered to encourage the recent graduates. Former students took the opportunity to present art, music and thoughtful words of advice to their peers and words of thanks to Agahozo-Shalom. ASYV's Founder, Anne Heyman, said, “We wanted to teach you how to be thinkers… You have already exceeded our expectations and I know that for all of you it is just going to continue to get better.”
The Alumni Launch served as a strong start to a new program that will continue to grow and evolve as more Agahozo-Shalom alumni join the ranks of this first graduating class. The depth of the connections these students have maintained outside of the Village is incredibly encouraging and is a sign that much of what we’ve been doing has truly been the life-changing impact we’ve been hoping for.