Cleo: Her Journey Back to Gashora

An inside look at life at Gashora

After graduating from Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology, Cleo Ingabire headed to the University of Rochester in New York. After graduation, she made her way back home to Gashora Girls Academy. She has spent the last two years working in the university counseling department helping her Gashora sisters accomplish their dreams. Her energy, work ethic, and psychology minor have proved invaluable as she works to serve the students and the mission of Gashora Girls Academy. She shares her inside look at life at Gashora from both the student and staff perspectives.

Would you please introduce yourself? 

I am Cleo Ingabire, a Gashora Alumni class of 2015. I am a firm believer in continuous personal growth. I am always looking for ways to improve my skills, personality traits, and weaknesses. I love reading books, talking with friends and family, and taking walks in my free time. 

I graduated from the University of Rochester in May 2020 with a degree in Physics and a minor in Social Psychology. I found fulfillment in learning psychology. I loved how it made me more self-aware and better understand how my behaviors relate to my environment. Studying abroad came with challenges like losing a sense of identity and belonging. Psychology allowed me to understand my strengths and weaknesses as an individual, which, in turn, allowed me to develop habits that proved to be indispensable to my success. I want to share that knowledge and passion with other people in hopes that they can understand themselves and how they can better adapt to challenging situations. 

What is your roIe at GGAST?

I have been at GGAST for two years as an Associate University Counselor, working closely with the University Counselor, John Nejman, to help students apply to university. My primary responsibility is to help each student, and their family successfully navigate the college application process. My job includes a variety of tasks, including working with students on their personal essays and statements, organizing college fairs, hosting application and essay writing camps, supporting students and parents as they navigate the application and admission process, building relationships with admission officers around the globe, and finding opportunities for our students to engage in programs, competitions, and events that will support their goals.

How does it feel being on campus in a staff role? 

As a staff member, I still am a Gashora Girl at heart, the girl who has big dreams and hopes for the future and the same girl who is "destined for greatness." I do not necessarily see myself differently than the current students. However, as a staff member, I have a better understanding of the school's mission and what it wants to accomplish. As a student, I was a consumer of that mission and did not necessarily see the big picture. Now it is my responsibility to turn that mission into reality every day. And so, as both a staff member and a Gashora girl, today more than ever, I am part of the Gashora dream, mission, and vision.

What are some of the joys of your job?

My biggest joy comes when a student receives admittance to a university with a substantial scholarship. It reminds me of the morning of December 16th, 2015, when I received my acceptance to the University of Rochester. Such moments make me realize how my department is a big part of Gashora's vision and mission. Every girl here dreams of pursuing a world-class higher education, and that dream begins in our office. I realize that our department has a big responsibility to ensure those dreams are pursued and achieved. And this realization fills me with a great sense of purpose and inspiration-the kind of purpose that wakes me up every morning.

What is your definition of “quality education,” and why is it important?

Quality education is the catalyst to a student becoming curious and hungry for knowledge; it creates lifelong learners. It admits that no one has all the answers but teaches students to explore the world in search of lessons through others' experiences, stories, and inventions. After graduating from college, what I left with was not the memory of theories and equations I learned in class but my ability to learn. Quality education teaches you how to learn to adapt to any situation and can be malleable enough to suit any work. It creates people who are visionary leaders who not only understand their world but who also can shape a world of their own.  

Looking back at your time at GGAST, how do you feel it prepared you for college and beyond? 

Gashora was and still is a constant source of inspiration for me. At Gashora, I met older, fearless girls, deeply rooted in who they were and with dreams that scared them. In my years at Gashora, I learned from others to push myself beyond my limits. Challenging me academically, Gashora made me ready for college classes. Even though some college classes were most challenging, they were nothing I couldn't handle. At Gashora, I also gained a deep sense of community by working with others and showing empathy and compassion for my classmates. I made invaluable friendships in college because of that sense of community I experienced at Gashora. Gashora taught me the biggest lesson of all - nothing is out of reach.

What are some of your favorite memories at Gashora?

Gashora had a tradition of posting the names of incoming students on the noticeboard a month before they arrived. This posting allowed the older students, teachers, and administration could get to know each incoming student. I remember the first day I walked into Gashora and found that my picture and name were on the noticeboard. Older students and teachers that I did not even know at the time knew me and would call me by my name to say hi. Going to a new school, worried about making new friends, and scared to find my place in that community, I felt seen, valued, and heard.

During my time at Gashora, I carried a message I heard early on that I was the key to my success and that Gashora was full of opportunities, but it was up to me to take advantage of them. I remember hearing those words for the first time and how they inspired me to give my best in anything I did at Gashora. 

Additionally, I remember the first time I saw Gashora debaters. It was a friendly debate between Gashora and another school hosted in our dining hall. When I saw how they spoke and articulated their ideas and arguments, I knew I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be a critical thinker and be able to express my ideas as eloquently as she did. The rest is history. 

My other favorite memories are the talents shows, fashion shows,  debate competitions, Friday night booms, and other events that made me feel alive. In those events, we discovered stand-up comedians, talented dancers, beautiful models, and great cheerleaders. Those events played a significant role in turning us into sisters. Sisters who knew each other, supported and cheered for each other, and most importantly, sisters who LOVED each other.

What would be your message to current students?

Gashora is one of the few places in the world that can change your life forever. Treat Gashora as such and beautiful things will happen. Also, never stop learning. I am grateful to have been a Gashora Girl twice, as a student and staff member. It is one of the most significant opportunities that changed and continues to change my life.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Five years from now, I want to explore the interconnectedness between Education, Psychology, and business and turn that into a business. I want to learn how to build a business and be an investor. 

Help These girls To change the world.


Orlyse reflects on her time at GGAST as graduation nears


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