Class of 2013 Graduation Ceremony

“I am the 10th born of 11 children. My family couldn’t support all of us so I had to drop out of school after secondary. I sat home for two years with no hope of ever furthering my education.” -Louise Umutoni, Valedictorian, Class of 2013

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On December 6, Queen Uwambaye (above) and 55 classmates graduated from Akilah.

Queen grew up in a rural village in Rwanda. She worked at a local supermarket to help pay her school fees and support her single mother and younger siblings.

Queen and her classmates have launched careers at companies such as Marriott International, Kopo Kopo, Inzuki Designs, Serena Hotels, Nyungwe Forest Lodge, and Top Tower Hotel.

Others have started their own businesses.

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Valedictorian Louise Umutoni is one of 21 students who is moving to Dubai to join a management training program with Marriott International. Upon completion of this program, the Akilah graduates will return to supervisory roles in Marriott’s first Sub-Saharan African hotel in Rwanda.

Louise’s classmate Vestine, whose venture idea won first place in a business plan competition at the University of San Diego, has opened a bakery that substitutes sweet potatoes for white flour to produce diabetes-friendly baked goods without refined sugars.

Harvard University lecturer Swanee Hunt, a former U.S. Ambassador to Austria, was Akilah’s Class of 2013 graduation speaker. Amb. Hunt’s work to achieve gender parity and manage conflict spans more than two decades and 60 countries. She encouraged students to pursue the opportunities they have as Akilah graduates:

You have a huge advantage of being a woman in Rwanda. When I met [Rwanda’s] President Paul Kagame in 2000, he said to me one thing: “We need education for our young women.” That was his number one priority, and so to stand here at the graduation of 56 young women from Akilah, is a fulfillment of President Kagame’s dream and I am delighted to tell the world about this school because it is fabulous and a step forward for Rwanda.

Family members traveled from all across the country to be present at the special ceremony.


Please consider making a monthly gift to Akilah’s Scholarship Fund, which supports 85% of tuition fees and makes an Akilah education possible for students in Rwanda and Burundi.

$100 monthly gift = 1 tuition scholarship
$250 monthly gift = 1 scholarship, daily lunch and textbooks

Learn more about Akilah’s 2013 Winter Campaign to provide scholarships for 340 students like Louise and Vestine to attend Akilah next year.


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