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Long journey leads to graduation

Maggie Bushiri hopes to study pre-law in college and wants eventually to work in immigration.

There aren’t many people at Rosemount High School who know Maggie Bushiri’s story. That’s too bad. It’s a good one.

Bushiri, who will graduate Saturday with the RHS Class of 2014, was born without a home as her family fled civil war in the Congo for a refugee camp in Mozambique. She spent the first nine years of her life moving from one refugee camp to another. From Mozambique to Tanzania, Tanzania to whatever other country would take the family in.

There was no school for Bushiri, and not much clean water. The family ate what they could grow, and often went a day or two without food.

Somewhere along the way, her father was killed. Bushiri doesn’t know the details, only that her mother told her it was a random shooting.

In 2005, aid workers relocated the family to Salt Lake City, which was its own kind of trauma. Suddenly the family had an apartment, a refrigerator and a stove — all of which Bushiri was seeing for the first time — but they knew nothing of the world in which they were suddenly living. Grocery stores were a foreign concept. When the family had eaten the food stocked in its refrigerator they had no idea how to get more. They went a day without eating before someone explained the card they carried could be used as money.

It was a big adjustment.

“At first, I hated it,” Bushiri said. “It was very difficult, because I had no English whatsoever.”

Bushiri also got her first taste of formal schooling in Salt Lake City. She was placed in a fourth grade class with no friends and no way to communicate.

It was hard and it was sometimes lonely, but Bushiri stuck with it. She started to meet people. She started to figure out American life.

By 2009, Bushiri’s mother had a job. Things were starting to seem normal. And then her mother had a heart attack and died.

Bushiri, one of eight children in her family, moved in with her 28-year-old sister then. The family moved to Rosemount to get a fresh start.

Bushiri was still quiet, still struggled with English when she enrolled in RHS as a freshman. She worked hard, though. She joined the track team her sophomore year, and this year was captain of The Beyonds, a student dance group that performs every year at the school’s holiday pep fest. She’s been involved in theater productions, too.

She has friends, and listening to her talk you probably wouldn’t guess English is not her native language.

She also has a plan. It was at RHS Bushiri decided she wanted to be the first person in her family to go to a four-year college.

That meant hard work. Bushiri stayed after school every day to ask teachers for help with assignments. She put in hours of effort to get where she wanted to be.

Now, Bushiri has been accepted at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State Mankato. She wants to attend UMD to study pre-law. Eventually, she’d like to work in immigration.

Less than a week before graduation, Bushiri thinks about the work she’s put in and knows Saturday’s commencement exercises are going to be emotional.

“I’m going to cry,” she said. “Thinking about it, I’ve come a long way. It just all happened like a dream.”

A dream that has taken a lot of hard work.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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