SCHOOLS: ROCK BRIDGE HIGH
By KATIE MORITZ
Rock Bridge High School senior Niyonzima Etienne was named one of the 1,000 nationwide recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The scholarship will pay for Etienne’s undergraduate education at Missouri State University, where he plans to earn a degree in construction management.
According to the program’s website, the scholarship can be used at the university of the recipient’s choice, and is awarded based on academic achievement, community service and leadership potential.
Etienne, who was born in the Congo, was a refugee in Tanzania until he moved to the U.S. with his family in 2007. When he came to Columbia, he spoke no English. But he was a quick learner, and soon wanted to teach English to other African refugees in the area.
In an interview with Etienne earlier this year, he said the three needs of refugees that must be met for them to have successful lives in the U.S. are English language skills, transportation and employment. Etienne began teaching refugees English in his living room every week. He also travels to churches and hospitals with them to act as a translator. In February, he was helping 10 families.
Earlier this year, Etienne was named one of six distinguished finalists in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The program honors middle and high school students for outstanding community service.
Upon receiving a construction management degree, Etienne hopes to employ refugees to help build structures in their communities. Etienne will graduate from Rock Bridge on May 21.