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The following article was first published by Nezia Munezero Kubwayo, a Burundian humanitarian and former Baltimore Resettlement Center colleague, on her blog. It was recently reposted on the Refugee Voices section of the Refugee Center Online, a new platform that uses technology to help refugees and displaced individuals build new lives in the United States.
RYP is incredibly proud to know Jackie and to have played a part in her story. Please share across your social media networks and join us in cheering her on!

Jacqueline Ndayizeye. It is a name that has been forever marked in the history books at the SEED School of Maryland. Born in a refugee camp in Tanzania, Jackie was only six years old when her family resettled in Baltimore, Maryland. She set her mind to taking full advantage of America’s education system as far back as she can remember. Even as her mom and relatives faced the hardships of acclimating to a new country with little education, Jackie did well as a student.

Like most newcomers, she learned English as a second language. She admits that not being able to communicate was hard, but she was determined to achieve academic success. She sailed through the grades better than expected. Along the way, she met mentors whose guidance through life in and outside of school has proved to be invaluable. It is thanks to her mentors and her excellent school records that she found herself at the SEED School on the western side of Baltimore. Jackie credits a significant amount of her success to the fact that boarding school allowed her to leave family problems behind on school days.

In addition to her studies, Jackie is involved in various organizations as a volunteer and a leader. She danced and led the African Drumming and Dance group at her school.She has worked with the Refugee Youth Project to help other refugee children. She has spent her summers taking college courses at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and completing scientific research internships at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Here is what she had to say about finishing at the top of her class:

“Being valedictorian felt like winning a gold medal. I never thought that I could be a valedictorian. I just always like to work hard and to do more. It really felt great to have others to acknowledge me through all that hard work that I have done during my high school years. I was proud of myself; the best day of my life. I was able to show my family that I wasn’t worthless, that I can do better, and to give them hope for the future. The benefits of being a valedictorian is that it opened college opportunities and encouraged me to keep on climbing. It really gave me something to think about as I head to college – there is no limitation of how successful I can be if I work hard enough.”

Jackie is headed to Stevenson University this month to study nursing as a first step towards becoming a pediatrician. She dreams of one day returning to Burundi to use her medical training. Her advice to other students? “Don’t let your family issues pull you back from becoming successful but instead use that as a way to push forward and accomplishing the things that will help you and your family in the long run. Be passionate about your dreams and make them possible. Don’t let failure put you down but see it as a way of stepping inside other doors of opportunity.” With a heart as big as her brain, Jackie is on her way to achieving more than she even realizes right now. Join me in congratulating her and wishing her well on her journey.