JL is a 13-year-old boy from Rwanda who is one of the members of MASTERY, a weekly program held at Duke University that acts as an afterschool-mentoring program for refugee children of all ages in Durham. His mother and sister had fled to Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and about three months ago they moved to the United States as refugees. It was a big adjustment for him, since he didn’t speak any English upon arrival here. Although he claims his English isn’t very good, he has been a really fast learner. When asked how he practices his English, JL responded “I just talk to everybody!” He also says he likes to read books, and says he even reads the dictionary sometimes to learn new words.


The Rwandan flag – country where JL was born

Although there was some culture shock upon first arrival seeing the houses and the cars, JL has quickly begun adapting US culture. He is often seen wearing a snapback and listening to Chris Brown on his iPhone, whom he says is his favorite singer. JL is a big fan of soccer and basketball and says his favorite basketball player is Michael Jordan and that his favorite soccer player is Messi. JL also likes playing soccer with his friends here in Durham, and says that the soccer here is better than in Rwanda because he has better soccer shoes here with cleats. JL met one of his best friends, Najib, by playing soccer, and many of the kids in the community enjoy playing soccer together on the weekend as it really ties the community together.


Lionel Messi – JL’s favorite soccer player


Chris Brown – JL’s favorite musician


Although JL does feel a sense of community in MASTERY because he is with people that are from his country and with other refugees who are in a similar situation than him, he says he does not yet feel a sense of community in Durham. He does like his apartment complex, Oak Creek, because he has friends there and feels safe, saying that there are “no bad boys”. He is looking forward to seeing snow for the first time in Durham, and is excited to play in the snow.


Duke MASTERY Program

JL has big dreams for the future, saying that he would like to be a doctor when he grows up so that he can help people. He says that doctors helped his mother when she was sick once, and he wants to be able to do the same for other people. We wish him the best of luck in his future here in the US and hope that he fulfills all of his dreams.

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