Here I am in my last week here at the school. Argh, it makes me sad. But it is very bitter sweet: I’m excited to be in my home country with family and friends soon and yet I am going to miss Africa and these amazing young women so immensely I cannot even begin to describe it. For a while I was seriously considering staying here for an extra ten months because I love these girls so much and I am so passionate about the work being done here but in the end I really do think it’s time I return to the states: My heart sinks and uplifts simultaneously at the thought. But I don’t want to think too much about it just yet because I want to soak it all in a little while longer before I go.

One thing that made me incredibly proud was helping a student with her speech for graduation. When Alexia, a student whose smile shines out of her with the great warmth, gave her powerful and uplifting speech at graduation in front of the president and a crowd of nearly one thousand people, I was beaming. I just helped her a little with her speech but even that was pretty cool. Apparently she was a shy and timid student when she first got here and now she’s giving speeches. It was empowering to see the first ever-graduating class of the Gashora Academy receive their diplomas. This school (and Rwanda in general) is where the revolution for women’s rights in Africa is beginning to blossom. Rwanda is like a little epicenter for positive change, and I sure hope it continues on that path. Alexia is just one of the many incredible young women who I think will positively transform their country. I love these girls and I look forward to seeing what they accomplish further down the road.

One of our star graduates stands with the founders of Rwanda Girls Initiative while they                                          are filmed by the Emmy Award winning film maker from Frontline.

Graduation was crazy! President Kagame coming made for some heck-deck planning and organizing. Although my dorm girls are used to waking up early (they wake up everyday at 5:30am for homework study) i had to wake them up even earlier, an extra half hour for the day of graduation so that soldiers could search through all their stuff, as well as mine, for the president’s arrival. Then we weren’t allowed back in the dorm until after he left in the afternoon. After breakfast, we all got searched several times before we could enter the community center where we were going to hold graduation. The atmosphere was surprisingly calm as several pleasant officials searched us. When it was my turn, the woman examined my camera carefully and said “Can i take a picture?” I laughed and said “Sure.” So she took a funny photo of me and let me go on my way. No cameras, phones or electronics were allowed in and a red carpet, VIP section with black leather chairs were brought in for His Excellency by  officials and a presidential podium was brought in for security measures. Amazingly, everything went smoothly and we all got to watch these impressive young women take the next step in their journeys. Pretty awesome.

If you’d like to see the official graduation photos, here they are. Can you spot me in the crowd?

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