When Gulliver Prep junior Jonathan Ubalijoro goes to visit his father’s birthplace in Rwanda on vacation, he takes some time to tutor students in English, art and computers.
“The school year ends just before we arrive,” he says. “They like to take time to come to our classes (even while on vacation).”
While he’s there he teaches English, Art and computers. This past summer, he gave guitar classes.
“We teach for about one or two weeks depending on how many other activities we have,” he says.
He and his sisters have been teaching for about three years. They began when they were old enough to teach.
“At first it was just an idea,” he says. “Oh, someday we should give English classes. Then my father actually decided to organize something so we decided to give classes just in the morning. Then it expanded to art and computer and guitar.”
They attract a group of 30 or so students.
“Since my two sisters and I teach them, we usually separate them into smaller groups,” he says. “Me and my younger sister take them for an hour-and-a-half and teach them English while my older sister teaches them computers. Then we switch.”
Some of the students come back year after year but there are always new students joining the group. Ubalijoro estimates the youngest are seven or eight and the oldest are 13 or 14.
They also separate the kids into leveled groups. The ones who speak better English go into one room and those that struggle with the language go into another.
“My father is there, he supervises,” he says. “Sometimes if there is something the children don’t understand, he can translate because he speaks the native language there. I wish I did. It’s really complicated.”
However, Ubalijoro does speak French. He learned French while living on Reunion Island. He’s also lived in Amsterdam, New York and now Miami. His father’s job has required the relocations. This is Ubalijoro’s first year in Miami.
At Gulliver, he’s in the drama club. He’s participating in the spring musical which is taking up much of his free time now. He favors musicals over dramatic plays.
“I prefer singing,” he says.
Through his engineering class, he helped create the props and scenery to this school year’s dramatic play, Forced Marriage.
“We contributed all the props and the scenery,” he says.
He is in the chorus ensemble and he plays guitar.
“I’ve been playing for a long time now, I started when I was seven or eight,” he says.
For fun, he goes rock climbing with his sister.
On weekends, he participates in the Baby Bulls program, where Gulliver students go to Holmes Elementary School to help children who have trouble with reading.
Since he’s a junior, he’s just started considering colleges. He says while he’s not set on a major, he is looking at science and engineering as two potential fields. He has visited a number of colleges at the time of his sister’s college search.
He says he plans to apply to schools such as Emory, Stanford, Georgetown.
“I do have a little pressure because my sister was accepted to Harvard,” he says.
His sister decided to take a gap year and work, delaying the start of her undergraduate studies. He might do the same.
“I skipped a grade,” he says. “I’m a year younger than most people in my grade. If I take a gap year I could arrive in college at the same age as most of the people.”
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld