David Bihomora, 17, had a different upbringing than most other kids. Although he was born in the United States, his parents and older siblings are refugees from Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
“It’s just different living around my parents and me knowing my gratefulness,” Bihomora said. “I just learn not to take advantage of any situations.”
Bihomora is a rising senior at Christian Fellowship School. He and his classmate Jespere Mboumba, 17, have faced challenges associated with growing up in a refugee household and being the only two African students at the high school.
Mboumba and her family immigrated to Columbia from Africa when she was 5 years old. Unlike Bihomora, Mboumba remembered parts of her childhood memories growing up in Gabon.
She reminisced about the close-knit community they had back in Africa. “Everybody is worried about everyone, and it’s like the neighborhood, somebody would make food and everybody would get to eat,” she said.
Even though her family moved to the United States, Mboumba said they still embrace their African culture at home. Her parents only speak in French at home, eat traditional African dishes and watch African soap operas.
Mboumba said it was embarrassing when she first arrived in the U.S. because English is not her first language.
She was put into the English Language Learner program, where she felt the environment limited her. From her personal experience, Mboumba believes that students could adapt and learn better if they were in the same class with native English speakers.
Overall, Mboumba and Bihomora feel that Christian Fellowship School embraces their diversity and welcomes them with open arms, they said.
Both of them are thriving in their academics. The two students were accepted in Boy’s State and Girl’s State earlier this summer for the week-long program.
“I’ve never heard what Boy’s State was prior to this,” Bihomora said. “Once knowing what it was, I learned it’s pretty prestigious.”
At first he was worried, not knowing what to expect, but Bihomora grabbed all the opportunities to show his best self throughout the week-long program.
He said it was interesting to learn about how a government works first-hand during the program. The boys were given the chance to set up their own cities, government system and vote their own mayors and city councils. They also learned how to create their own business license, he said.
“I took away a lot, just learning how to build a brand successfully and how to market it, too,” Bihomora said.
Last December, Bihomora founded his own clothing brand called Blade.
“Columbia is always boring,” he said. “I want to make it more creative and to inspire creativity is my goal.”
He released his first line in December and January and is already planning his second line in the next few weeks. His friends helped with modeling and taking photos, and his older brother is helping to build the website. Bihomora said he is the one who comes up with the designs.
Mboumba, who aspires to become a lawyer or judge, acted as a house representative for her city at Girl’s State. As part of the program, she went to Jefferson City to debate bills they wrote in the program as any congressman would, she said.
“Everyone says that it’s going to be this wonderful camp where it’s going to completely change your life and all this and all I have to say to that is, it is completely correct,” she said.
Bihomora said he tends to look at the glass half empty and does not give up easily on his goals, because his parents didn’t either.
“I’ve learned that over the years ... you’re not going to win something if you’re going to be negative towards somebody back,” he said.
Supervising editor is Libby Stanford: email@example.com, 882-5720.