The Utah Refugee Services Office hosted about 280 Salt Lake area high school students at its 3rd annual Refugee Youth Conference today Wednesday. The RSO runs with federal and state funding under the wing of the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Beatrice Niyonzima comes from South Africa. She’s now a senior at East High School. Niyonzima says meeting other refugee students helps her hold onto the vision of being able to succeed.
“So I really believe in myself. I know I’m going to do it. I’m going to be the first in all my family, like from my grandparents, my great, great, great…I’m going to be the only one who’s going to college,” says Niyonzima. “I mean the first one. They’re going to be proud of me and I want to do it. I want to be the…I want them to follow me,” Niyonzima says.
Kendrick LaFleur is the Youth Services Coordinator with the RSO and head of the conference. He says these kids are at the conference for the inspiration they need to keep going.
“The thing with refugees, with families, the one thing, if they’ve gotten this far, they demonstrated is that they’re very resilient and they are survivors and they will find a way,” says LaFleur.
LaFleur says he hopes that more students will come away from the conference with a brighter view of their own future through their interaction with students who face many of the same challenges and are succeeding.