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International students headed to National Leadership Forum in D.C.


From left, Shekinah Kahongo, Jemimah Wavamunno and Olivier Iryamukuru were selected to attend National Student Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C
From left, Shekinah Kahongo, Jemimah Wavamunno and Olivier Iryamukuru were selected to attend National Student Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C

All three are from Africa, all three are exceptional students, all three are active in student government, and all three are headed for the National Student Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., this weekend.
Meet three of ACU’s best and brightest – Olivier Iryamukuru, a senior from Rwanda; Jemimah Wavamunno, a junior from Uganda; and Shekinah Kahongo, a junior from the Congo.
The forum will meet Oct. 26-28 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. Over those three days, the ACU students will join college students from all over the country to hear from political leaders, meet in breakout sessions for discussion, and tour the monuments.
All three are grateful for the opportunity and the support they have received from ACU to make this trip a reality, including assistance in raising money to fund it.
“ACU does that for people,” Jemimah said. “People at ACU want to see you succeed no matter who you are.”
The three students came to ACU via different routes but all have found the same experience. They cannot believe their good fortune in landing at ACU, where they all are involved in multiple campus organizations and all take advantage of the myriad opportunities in front of them.
“Every day is an opportunity to learn something new,” Shekinah said.
Scott McDowell, vice president for student life at ACU, was one of the people who helped the students get accepted to the National Student Leadership Forum. He sees more in them than just being outstanding students.
“They are all amazing Christ followers,” he said.
As much as the three have in common, they also have unique stories to tell about their background and where they want to land after earning degrees from ACU.
Olivier, a math major with a concentration in actuarial science, prepared the way for Jemimah and Shekinah. Students have to be nominated and accepted before attending the forum. In 2016, Olivier was nominated for the forum by one of his mathematics professors, Mark Riggs. He was accepted, attended the forum that fall, returned to Washington the following spring for the National Prayer Breakfast, and got hired as an intern by a congressman that summer.
“That is something that looks really good on my resume,” Olivier said.
Since then, he has been a promoter for the National Student Leadership Forum and encouraged Jemimah and Shekinah to apply.
When Olivier came to ACU, it was the first time he had been out of his native Rwanda. He came through a program called Bridge to Rwanda, which assists students in getting accepted into universities in the United States.
Olivier already has landed a job with Prudential Financial in New York City after graduation. He interviewed for the job last summer, along with two students from other universities. Only one would be chosen. Olivier was in a Lyft ride on the way to the airport when his phone rang.
“They called me and extended an offer to me,” he said. “I was very, very excited.”
The only problem for Olivier is that he has something else to be very, very excited about, too. He also is in the running to be a Rhodes Scholar, which would mean putting his career on hold for two years while studying at prestigious Oxford University in England.
“I have not made a decision yet,” Olivier said. “I’m praying about it.”
Jemimah is a business management major with minors in psychology and global studies. She learned about ACU through a conference she attended in Uganda sponsored by Education USA, which is part of the U.S. Department of State. She’s glad she picked ACU out of all the universities she could have chosen.
“ACU has managed to just kind of blow me out of my mind,” she said.
After ACU, Jemimah wants to pursue a joint program for law and a master’s degree in business, eventually working in public policy and possibly ending up with the United Nations. She is off to a great start.
At ACU, Jemimah is active in a variety of organizations, serving as an officer in some, and also is a resident assistant. She loves how she has been able to hone her leadership skills at ACU, something that will prove useful as she moves forward.
Jemimah is vice president of the African Students Association, an organization she loves. It is a tight-knit group of students who support each other and also are eager to teach other students about their home country. Jemimah also is a traveler and is looking forward to her trip to Washington, where she might end up in law school. Over the summer, she traveled to Oxford and to Central America, all because of opportunities she has found at ACU.
“They’re definitely going to make sure you’re going to have a holistic experience,” she said.
Shekinah’s story is a little different from Olivier and Jemimah. He was born in Zambia, and in 2011, when Shekinah was 12, his family moved to Houston. During Shekinah’s senior year in high school, he decided he wanted to attend a Christian university and was accepted to seven schools.
Then a representative from ACU came to Shekinah’s school and made his pitch.
“I really fell in love with the mission statement,” he said.
Now a junior, Shekinah has made great strides. He first was a biology major in the pre-med track but then changed his goal to law school. Now a political science and global studies major, Shekinah is considering law schools in Texas and in Washington, D.C.
Shekinah is active in the African Students’ Association and has held three leadership positions, which will suit him well in the future as he hopes to be involved in international human rights and global finance. The change in direction, from pre-med to political science and global studies, was shaped by his experience at ACU. Shekinah recalled his first impression when he visited ACU. The impression from that experience still holds true today.
“It automatically told me it was where I knew I needed to be,” he said.

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