Rwamagana, Rwanda — 123 students from the Class of 2023 graduated from Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) on June 30, 2023. These resilient individuals, who come from orphaned backgrounds and vulnerable families, have triumphed over numerous challenges to reach this point.
During the graduation ceremony, Yvan Sangwa, the class valedictorian, recounted and highlighted his personal journey of resilience. Sangwa, who was born in Burundi and is currently a refugee in Rwanda, had lost all hope of finding a place to call home. However, ASYV became his sanctuary, providing him with safety, love, and healing. ASYV gave him hope.
As a child, he had lost all hope of finding a place to call home. However, ASYV became his sanctuary, providing him with safety, love, and healing.
“ASYV has given me the opportunity to dream again and believe in myself,” Yvan said. “I am grateful for the support of my teachers, mentors, and friends. I am also grateful for the opportunity to be part of this community, which has taught me the importance of resilience, determination, and hope.”
The graduation ceremony was a testament to the remarkable progress made by these 123 students over the past four years. Richard Niyibigira, the Country Director of ASYV, expressed his confidence in the graduating class, stating, “We firmly believe that this graduating class will continue to make a positive impact on society, just as you have already made an impact on the beautiful hills of Rubona, Rwamagana.”
Mr. Emmanuel Bahizi, the first Valedictorian of ASYV, emphasized that the graduates’ achievements were not accomplished alone. He acknowledged the crucial roles played by their families, friends, mentors, and teachers in their journey. Bahizi encouraged the graduates to take pride in their accomplishments while reminding them that graduation is not the end of their journey.
“Graduation is not the end of our journey. It is the beginning of a new chapter. You must continue to work hard, build upon the foundation you have received, and strive to become the best versions of yourselves.” He said. He urged them to continue working hard, building upon the foundation they received at ASYV, and striving to become the best versions of themselves.
Dr. Ron Adam, the Ambassador of the State of Israel to Rwanda, attended the ceremony as the guest of honor. In his remarks, he commended ASYV for providing quality education and empowering the youth. Drawing insights from Israel’s experience, he emphasized the significance of an innovative and inquiry-based educational approach. “Discover your passions, strengthen your skills, and become the next generation of skilled leaders. Remember, every ending is a new beginning. With determination, we can be the best and serve our beloved country in the most extraordinary way.” He said.
Dr. Adam encouraged the graduates to seize the opportunities before them and strive for excellence, reminding them that they are the future leaders and builders of Rwanda. “Just as Rwanda became a model state, we too can shape our destiny. Innovate, mentor, and find solutions that will uplift ourselves and those around us.” He added.
Liz Stern, ASYV Board Chair, expressed her pride and gratitude towards the graduates, acknowledging their tremendous accomplishments. She praised their efforts in establishing new clubs, initiatives, and excelling in various competitions.
“Today, as you walk to accept your diplomas, remember that anything is possible. You have founded new clubs, started initiatives, won competitions, and shown immense passion and support for one another. But remember, sometimes the greatest achievements are found in acts of kindness, encouragement, and friendship.” She said adding that “As you embark on the next chapter of your lives, carry the belief that if the village is possible, then anything is possible.”
The graduation of these 123 students from ASYV is an addition of 1800 young Rwandans who graduated since its foundation in 2008 by Anne Heyman as a systemic solution to support the well-being and development of Rwanda’s orphans and vulnerable kids. These young Rwandans are a testament to their resilience and the transformative power of education and support. As they embark on their future endeavors, they carry with them the values instilled at ASYV, empowering them to make a positive impact on society and become leaders and builders of Rwanda.
Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is home to over 500 youth, who live in family-style homes with their peers, and they are surrounded by surrogate mothers and siblings whose goals are to recreate the next best possible family for the youth
The Village provides a comprehensive education, including high school, vocational training, and leadership development. It also offers a variety of extracurricular activities, such as sports, music, and arts and other essential life skills, and develops into confident and responsible young adults.
The focus of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is to restore hope and opportunity to children who have experienced trauma. Rather than being mere students, they become part of a supportive and stable family unit that provides them with a sense of belonging and security.
Beyond academics, students have the opportunity to explore visual and instrumental arts, participate in sports teams, and engage in entrepreneurship training and science center classes, enriching their learning experience.
The ambassador of the State of Israel to Rwanda Dr. Ron Adam adressing the participants
Mr Richard Niyibigira adressing thousands who gathered to cerebrate with the students
Liz Stern ASYV Board Chair together with Nkulikiyimfura Jean Claude awarding the best student
123 students graduted from Agahozo Shalom Youth Village