Twenty years after a genocidal civil war killed nearly 20 percent of the population of Rwanda, a 17 year-old girl from Kigali, the nation's capital, came to Friday Harbor's Spring Street International School.
Zula Mucyo, an 11th grader, started at SSIS in January and is the second African (the first, an Ethiopian girl, graduated a year ago) and eighteenth current international student.
Before coming to America, she attended Gashora Girls Academy, a boarding school with 270 high-achieving girls in Rwanda's lake country, about 30 miles south of Kigali, where Zula grew up.
Rwanda is a country of less than 12 million people in east Africa, bounded by Congo to the west, Tanzania to the east, Uganda to the north and Burundi to the south. It's about the size of Maryland (population under six million) and has a per capita gross domestic product of less than $1,500.
"Zula's extremely bright, already taking advanced placement college level courses," said school Head Louis Prussack. "We benefit greatly from having her here. She raises the academic level of all the students and inspires all of us."
She came to SSIS on full scholarship (including room and board and airfare) with the encouragement of Jennie McCulloch, a teacher at Gashora school and daughter of islander Fred McCulloch.
"These are amazing girls," Jennie McCulloch writes, "essentially the smartest girls in the country."
Zula says she's very happy to be in Friday Harbor, but after seeing her native country in the documentary "Rising From Ashes", about the Rwandan national cycling team, she admits to being "a little homesick."
This year, one of the annual international trips for students is to Ethiopia. The SSIS connection to Africa is growing.
All islanders will have the opportunity to learn about the school, faculty, and students, including the international travel program and the advanced placement college-level study program, on March 14, March 27 and April 14 for the Open Campus Days.
For more information, check out the school website at www.springstreet.org.