From Burundi, a student leader emerges

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By NORA THOMPSON

Graduation speaker Steve Jean Parfait Mfuranzima will be speaking at graduation in english, even through he speaks 5 other languages.

Mfuranzima’s  speech will focus on three topics: education, Mfuranzima is passionate about education, saying that “We are privileged to go to school so let’s do our best to be the model for our generation,”

The next topic is about being a first generation American.  In 2014 Mfuranzima emigrated from Burundi, a country in eastern Africa facing political corruptions and violence, to Tucson. He gained asylum in 2015 and managed to start Pima in 2017 .“I am one of the examples who got a second chance at life. I’m here in America, thank you for the opportunity but I guarantee that I’ll give back what I get”

And finally a thank you message to all of the people who helped him. Thanking those who believed in him and asking everyone to believe in others.

When Mfuranzima first got to America he hoped to go back to school. “I wanted to pursue education but I couldn’t do that yet. I wanted first to live, to get a house, get food and a car.” he cites the Maslow hierarchy of needs, “The first thing that a human being needs is food or a house. I was just focused on that.”

Mfuranzima spent the first few years he was in Tucson sleeping on friend’s couches, working between two and three part time jobs and trying to save money. In 2015 he got married, and finally in 2016 he managed to start at Pima. He was still working full time and received no scholarships for his first semester.

Once he was finally able to start school Mfuranzima decided to major in liberal arts so that he’d be able to transfer to a University easier. This semester he is a student senator at the east campus and is the Vice president of Phi Theta Kappa’s regional board. All while maintaining a 4.0 GPA Mfuranzima works as a translator, as he speaks french, kirundi, swahili, english and kinyarwanda. He is also learning spanish and spends a lot of his time in the spanish tutoring center.

“Compete for your legacy “ is his personal motto. Mfuranzima got the chance to be the graduation speaker after submitting an application to be the student speaker.

Christy Camargo the Events Coordinator at Pima was on the board that selected Mfuranzima. “It’s hard to select a speaker because all of the applicants are outstanding.” she says, “ But some speakers are more profound and can represent the class better, Jean is very composed, and very passionate when he speaks,”

The application process includes a few essay questions about the applicant, their best experience at pima, their challenges and any community service background that they have. The next step is an interview, all the candidates get an interview and by the beginning of april the graduation speaker has been chosen.

Ultimately Mfuranzima wants to get a master degree in Leadership. Specifically Organizational leadership.

“I’ve been involved with leadership since 2002 when I was 16. I organized two national leadership conferences, one regional conference and I was a speaker at the emerging leadership conference, here at Pima.”

The University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University both have a leadership master but Mfuranzima is looking specifically at NAU’s program for Organizational Leadership. He plans to return to Pima in the fall for one more semester.

 

Pima’s graduation will take place on Thursday May 17th at Tucson Convention Center at 7pm.

 

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