Fighting for the Life She Wants

Francine is one of our 2020 high school graduates.

One evening, she told us the story of her childhood, and it seems like an incredible tale that one would only watch in a movie or read about in a gripping novel.
But it’s her life.
She allowed us to share her story with you…

Francine’s family is from Burundi, but she spent most of her life in a village in Tanzania where her family relocated to escape the violence in their hometown. She recalled drawing water from the local well everyday holding her sister’s hand and carrying her baby brother on her back while her parents worked selling meat and produce in the village markets. She showed us photos of her siblings being baptized in a local church as children, chuckling at how much they have changed and grown since then. When Francine was a pre-teen, her dad called her over in the evenings to talk for hours about the importance of education and to share stories of his own childhood and the few educational opportunities he had. Francine laughed about how long those talks were but how grateful she was for her dad’s coaching.


In 2015, the family came to America as refugees. Although Francine no longer had to draw water from a well each day, she walked miles to and from Crawford High School, even on dark and rainy nights; she helped cook, clean, and run errands; she tutored her siblings, all while passing AP tests and classes, studying for the SAT and ACT, and more. Whenever she faced a challenge, she reminded herself about how hard life was in Tanzania and that comparatively, life in America is much easier. In reality, none of it was easy, but she keeps fighting for the life that she wants.

This fall, Francine will take a competitive spot at Chico State in their nursing program. SDRT awarded her a $2,000 scholarship from the Jodi Maroney Memorial Fund that was created last October to remember a dedicated tutor and U.S. Marine, Jodi Maroney, who passed away last fall. This Fund will also award $1,000 scholarships each to three other students for the upcoming school year. THANK YOU to Jodi’s husband, family, friends, and other generous contributors for making this possible.

At a family gathering to celebrate her graduation, Francine’s father gave a speech. He said that God brought Francine to America as a refugee so that she can further her education and succeed.

That’s exactly what she intends to do.

Support students like Francine by contributing here.

About Mimi Lee

Mimi started volunteering for SDRT in 2016 and currently serves as its Middle & High School Director. She met her husband at SDRT, and they live together in City Heights. She has her Master's in Education and teaching credential in English Language Arts.

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