by Jeff Lake
The keynote speaker for the event was Riverstone alumnus Yordanos Refu, a refugee from Ethiopia who fled to Djibouti before relocating to Boise in 2001 with her family. Originally expecting to end up in Atlanta, Georgia, Refu jokes that their arrival in Boise was set in motion by a stamp mix-up at the airport.
Initially she was unsure of how life in Boise would go, as she said, “Idaho’s not known to many Americans, let alone an abroad person.”
In a way, Refu feels that not knowing anything about Idaho helped in her overall assimilation. She says that people from other countries have a “glamorized perception of the United States,” but with Idaho, “I didn’t have any previous assumptions, so it presented itself the way it was and we were really glad to take it.”
Boise proved a serendipitous end-destination, as Idaho is among the few places in the world (besides Ethiopia) that grows teff, the main grain in the traditional Ethiopian bread, injera.
Refu laughed as I marveled at the odds, adding, “We had more than one reason to feel at home here.” When I pressed her on the possibility of finding Ethiopian cuisine anywhere in Boise, she said quite proudly that the best place to go would be her own mother’s kitchen.
Refu is currently a junior studying International Political Economy andBusiness with a minor in Spanish and Education at the College of Idaho. She attributes much of her success to the International Baccalaureates she received from Riverstone, and since her graduation, she has continued to be involved in the IB program, which promotes and accredits international curricula at many schools around the world, including Riverstone. Having shared her experiences at conferences across the United States, Refu recently returned from Ohio, where she spoke to IB educators.
The Ohio Association of IB Schools is trying to turn more kids towards IB classes, so they enlisted Refu to, “in a way help the teachers make it [IB classes] more attractive to the students, and I was also speaking to the students as to why they should take the program.”
Refu believes in what the International Baccalaureate program and places like Riverstone have to offer. As she said in her address, “[Because of the program] I am not only continuing my education, but I have bigger aspirations for myself, for my family, and for my country as well as the world.”
She looked around the bleachers of current students before finishing. “This is the kind of place … this is where it all started for me.”
With only one year left in her undergraduate degree, Refu is already feeling the strain of being a full-time student. However, she insists that education is her main focus; something that becomes apparent when she discusses her future plans.
“I want to make everything I do meaningful,” she states. “I will be in Idaho after I graduate, taking it slowly from there. My hope after all that, after graduate school and everything, is hopefully to do something for my country. Particularly, if it works out, as Minister of Education.” She smiles. “But I’m up for anything.”