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Iradukunda Josphine: Quad Cities 2015 Girl of the Year

Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw

Life is full of changes. Some change is simple and expected, like summer changing into autumn. Other times, change can affect your entire life and future. Packing up your belongings and moving thousands of miles away from all that you know is an extraordinary example of this kind of change. Would you let a change like this make or break you? This was the question Iradukunda Josephine had to ask herself when her family immigrated to the United States from Africa.

Josephine's parents wanted a fulfilling life for their, then 5 children. "What makes me proud is the fact that God have made a way for us to come to America" says her mother, Banderembako Gloriose. "My children are able to have a great education. Many children (in Africa) did not get their education because of the war, so I am proud that my children are living in a safe and peaceful country."

Her parents moved from the country of Tanzania where Josephine was born. She is the oldest of her siblings. She was 10 years old when her family moved to the United States. She said, "I was scared. I had no idea what to expect." Now 17 years old, she looks back and describes herself as young and nervous as she recalls her first impressions of America. "Everything was so different. People spoke a language that I did not know. They dressed differently from me and they were all very outspoken." For the first year in the U.S., Josephine and her family lived in Chicago. The family then moved to Rock Island, and her parents had two more children.

Josephine was able to learn English from her 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Clark. Breaking the language barrier allowed Josephine to communicate her ideas and thoughts more effectively, exposing everything this young woman had to offer. And, she had a lot to offer.



Photo credit: Jeff Loder

LGM:
Was learning English challenging for you?

Josephine:
"Learning English took a lot of time. I had a really thick accent, but with time I was able to speak the language."

LGM:
What do you like about America?

Josephine:
"Freedom, protection, and education; In Africa, a lot of the children stay home to work in the fields and don't go to school. My family was able to send us all to school, but the schools are better here. Also in America, there is better protection for us. The police keep us safe. One thing I love about America is the freedom and the opportunities. I want to take advantage of them all. Another thing I like is the diversity. There are so many cultures here."

LGM:
Do you miss Tanzania?

Josephine:
"I miss the people, but not the country."

LGM:
What are your plans for after high school?

Josephine:
"I have no idea what I want to do yet, but I am definitely going to college!"

Josephine is a very busy young woman. She takes care of many tasks at home including cooking for the family, cleaning, and helping to care for the younger children. She says,"I do not have to be asked; I understand that it is my responsibility." Her upbringing places her in stark contrast to typical families from the U.S., where these tasks are more likely to be left to their parents. Josephine however, does not complain. "I love to cook!" She says as she began to list a few of her favorite dishes.

Even with her responsibilities at home, she finds time for extra-curricular activities. She was a varsity member of the track team, and the cross country team at Rock Island High School. She is currently a freshman at Lincoln College. "She is a true athlete," said her former track coach, Tammy Vesey. "She works hard, not just for herself, but for her team. She displayed this at conference when she really wasn't feeling well, but she still ran in the 4X800 meter relay, because she didn't want to disappoint her teammates."

When Josephine is not busy with her sports, she volunteers at her church, Light Mission Pentecostal, and sings in the choir. When asked if she ever becomes stressed out or overwhelmed she said, "I am willing work hard for whatever is out there, and take advantage of the opportunities that come my way."

In April of 2015 Iradukunda Josephine was named Love GIRLS Magazine's Quad Cities "Girl of the Year."