Solange Nirere

My name is Solange Nirere from Rwanda, Africa. I am a product of the genocide that happened in Rwanda during my birth year of 1994. This tragic circumstance left me without parents, so my elderly grandmother raised me until her death when I was only six years old. The next few years forced me to survive, living on the street on my own or caring for other people’s children and cleaning houses while I was still a child myself. Arlene Brown, a United Methodist from Williamsport, PA, came to Rwanda to establish a children’s home for kids just like me. I lived there for seven years while supported by my now adoptive parents Rev. Sharon and Thomas Landis in the U.S. They brought me to America when I was eighteen.
 
In Rwanda, the schools I attended refused to let me continue my education due to my asthma attacks. Arlene contacted my would-be sponsors, resulting in a five-year struggle to obtain an I-20 in the U.S. Because I was eighteen, private schools rejected me. The only option was Hidalgo Early College High School in Texas. That is when I met Ana Villegas, an attorney who was instrumental in gaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which eventually lead to my permanent residency.
 
Attorney Ana Villegas assisted me during the entire process. I was totally without any living family members in Rwanda. With attorney Ana Villegas’ help, my life totally changed. Since that time, I have attended University and will graduate in May 2017 with my Bachelors Degree in Liberal Arts and a double minor in English and Legal Studies. As I look forward to gaining citizenship, Attorney Ana Villegas will be vital to the process. She has become a great mentor and friend in this extraordinary journey. Thank you Ana, you have made an AWESOME difference in my life.

Solange NirereRwanda