Octave Muhirwa

Year Up Boston Graduate

I’m the third of five children and grew up in the wake of the Rwandese genocide of 1994. I was fortunate that my parents survived it and I was able to have a decent childhood. We had a TV from 1995, and I learned how to speak English watching movies on that TV.

I love my country, but I lacked freedom to pursue educational opportunities so I moved to the US in September 2010. It was the most challenging time of my life. I was 19, completely alone, and seeking Asylum. It was hard to get on my feet. I found an under-the-table job selling sunglasses on a pushcart. I was making $8 an hour and was supporting myself and my family back in Rwanda.

Going to college was always a dream of mine. I wanted a strong education so that one day I can bring something back to teach my fellow Rwandese. Even though I couldn’t get financial aid and didn’t have enough money, I was committed to somehow getting that education.

That’s when a friend told me about Year Up. 18 college credits, an internship, and I didn’t have to pay anything? In fact, they were going to pay me! I was sold. But a delayed work permit made the admissions process stressful – would I make it? I didn’t give up and convinced the Admissions Team that my work permit would be extended in time. Thankfully, it was.

Year Up has been both challenging and inspiring. I had to dress professionally every day. At first, it was hard for me to wear a tie – I felt like a clown who was suffocating. But step-by-step I learned how to dress to impress. I learned a lifetime of lessons at Year Up like technical skills, writing a proper resume, and giving a good handshake. The skills I learned at Year Up helped me land a part-time job at Income Research and Management as an IT Associate where I was interning. I couldn’t have learned any of this without my amazing classmates and all of the Year Up staff.

My time at Year Up also reinforced my desire to go to college. I’m excited to say that I was accepted into the Wentworth Institute of Technology and will start this fall majoring in Computer Engineering. In four years, I can just see myself throwing my graduation hat up in the air…

Year Up was a game changer. It opened doors that I couldn’t have entered before. Now my future is full of possibilities and now it’s my turn to work hard and see those possibilities through.