Immigrants are Essential

When choosing their Senior Capstone project, Rufael Gebrehiwet ‘22, Gentil Niyomushobozi ‘22, and Gislain Rubuto ‘22 joined together to create the podcast, “Immigrants are Essential.” The six-episode series tells the stories of their migration and settlement to the United States and sheds light on the reality of immigration experiences and challenges. 

The group cites things such as oppressive governments, violence, and a lack of resources including basic needs like food and water as just a few reasons why some choose to leave their homes. The pressure and strain that results from these disparities left them no option but to flee the chaos and social unrest that persists as a result.

Going through the refugee process themselves led them to choose the topic of immigrants and refugees. Each member of the group felt they could relate strongly to the topic as well as offer unique and relevant perspectives in the hopes of making a difference. 

That hope quickly turned into reality when the trio was asked to do a panel discussion at the Dayton SHINE Event. This event is hosted each year by Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley in support of the organization’s Refugee Resettlement program. The group was chosen to present due to their personal experience in transitioning to the U.S., their resilience to overcome obstacles, and their work in sharing their stories through the podcast.

“Presenting at the event was a completely different experience and something we never thought could happen,” said Niyomushobozi. “Being invited to this event showed me that our podcast is not just a podcast, but something life changing that’s causing people to actually listen.” 

All three members of the group attended the event and spoke about their experiences coming to America and living in Dayton, Ohio as teen refugees. They shared unique stories of cultural differences and the struggles they have faced throughout different phases of their lives. They also shared their goals for the future, beginning with advancing their education and attending college. Two of the young men were awarded the Flyer Promise scholarships from the University of Dayton. These scholarships are awarded to high-performing, underserved students with the goal of removing financial barriers and offering consistent support to students, many of whom are striving to be first generation college graduates. 

Molly Bardine, English department chair, teacher and senior capstone moderator, helped guide these students throughout the creation of their podcast and attended the SHINE event to support the group. Bardine was struck by the number of event attendees who spoke to the group afterwards. One attendee approached her directly, letting her know that she was so struck by the boy's insights, that she recorded notes on her phone.

“The goal of Capstone is to make a difference on an issue and this group created something to not only share their story but other stories as well,” Bardine said. “Their podcast will change hearts and minds and, as a group, they really do have hearts as wide as the world, as St. Julie inspires us to have.”  

What started off as a school project turned into an opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless. The trio, now CJ graduates, are preparing for their first semester in college, having left a permanent mark on CJ and the Dayton community by sharing their experiences. These young men’s podcasts, “Immigrants are Essential,” can be found on Spotify. 

Photo: Mike Lehner, director of development at Miami Valley Catholic Social Services, leads the panel discussion on immigration with CJ graduates Gentil Niyomushobozi, Gislain Rubuto ‘22, and Rufael Gebrehiwet ‘22  at the organization’s SHINE event held on May 13, 2022.