Higher education is a big goal for refugees. That’s why it was such an exciting milestone on Armand Bashige’s 200th day in Minnesota when this Congolese young man was accepted to Augsburg University for the following school year.
“When I was back in Africa I used to be sent home for not being able to pay my school fees, and the teachers wouldn’t help me learn what I missed,” said Armand.
In America, high school is free, and teachers are very willing to help, making it so much easier for me to complete my degree.
But teachers at Armand’s high school of South St. Paul credit Armand’s hard work and positive attitude for his accomplishments, even awarding him their prestigious Teachers’ Scholarship.
Armand has this positive aura that surrounds him.
“After hearing his story about fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo and living as a refugee in Uganda for 12 years, I found his optimism and drive truly inspirational. His resilience is mind boggling to me,” said Carol Jerney, ELL teacher at South St. Paul High School.
It was Ms. Jerney who taught Armand how to type and use a computer, and one of the many teachers who advocated for Armand to go to college, helping him with applications.
Armand also credits his chemistry teacher, Christopher Moore for seeing something different in him and writing a recommendation letter to Augsburg University. When Armand got accepted to Augsburg, Mr. Moore cooked waffles for his chemistry class to celebrate.
Although, Armand worried that he couldn’t afford Augsburg’s tuition even with scholarships and financial aid.
“When Ms. Jerney saw the disappointed look on my face, she called Augsburg and explained that I’m a refugee. I was lucky that AU had a grant for first generation college students.
I am so happy that I am the first person in my family to attend college,” said Armand.
Armand’s family has experienced the support of a Good Neighbor volunteer team from Cities Church during their first year in Minnesota. The volunteers play board games to help them practice English, assist them in applying for after school jobs, and moved Armand into his dorm room at Augsburg.
“Armand doesn’t let obstacles stop him. He asks for help, he reaches out, and it’ll be cool to see in 8 years just how many obstacles he will have overcome that he didn’t let stop him,” said Heather, a Good Neighbor volunteer.
Since moving to Minnesota, everything in my life has changed, I don’t know if it’s a miracle or what; all good things are coming to me, and I am so grateful for that,” shared Armand.