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Refugee student awarded scholarship

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Elysee and his family outside of their Dallas home.

Photo: Emily Parker/the IRC

When Mukabera Uwamaria was fifteen years old, she fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After five months on the run, she arrived at a refugee camp in Rwanda, where she lived for the next twenty years. There, she met her husband, Eugene, and had four children, the oldest of whom is Elysee Ishimwe.

After living in a Rwandan refugee camp and enduring the rigourous refugee vetting process, Elysee and his family were granted refugee status. They learned they were to be resettled in Dallas, TX by the International Rescue Committee. When they arrived in May of 2016, no one in the family spoke English, Elysee included. His first English lesson was given to him by an IRC intern when he first arrived.

“He helped me learn colors and numbers,” Elysee recounts. 

Today, the family has a home in Dallas. Elysee, now an 11 year old attending Sam Tasby Middle School, was recently the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship from his elementary school. He will be awarded the money upon high school graduation to go towards continuing education.

Elysee proudly displays his scholarship award. Photo: Emily Parker/the IRC

Shortly after arriving in Dallas, Elysee began attending a reading circle through Refugee Resources every Wednesday. "The reading circle helped me improve my vocabulary and English." Elysee shared. "I went once a week.”

One of the most challenging parts of learning English he says, is that “...you have to be brave. When I was first learning English, I was scared to speak out loud. I was afraid I was going to say the wrong words.”

Elysee is known by his teachers for being generous and caring, with both of his parents working jobs at separate hours, he helps his family take care of his four silblings. He also shares his tips on how to be brave and speak English with his friends.
“To help my friends," Elysee explains, "I say just take a deep breath, and even though you might say something you don’t mean, just say sorry, and try again.”

After graduating high school, Elysee plans to attend college. Someday he wants to pursue a Master's degree in education and go on to teach math or science. 

Elysee sits outside of his home with his scholarship award.

Photo: Emily Parker/the IRC