A woman who fled the genocide of Rwanda and ended up in Iowa was given the “Outstanding American by Choice” award today from the U.S. Director of Citizenship and Immigration.
Director Emilio Gonzalez says he created the award to honor outstanding immigrants and was in Des Moines today to present it to Clemmentine Msengi.
Gonzalez says, “This is somebody who came here to the United States in 1995 and was told to essentially not pursue her education and in fact she did just the opposite.” He says Msengi went on to get a masters degree in community of at the University of Northern Iowa and has been a “real pillar” as an advocate for other immigrants coming into Iowa.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley discovered today that his office had helped Msengi when she came into the country. Grassley says Msengi is a “shinning example” of how immigrants can come to the U.S. and make an impact. Grassley says Msengi “has upheld the principles that positively guide this country.”
Msengi lives in Cedar Falls and says some people told her when she came to Iowa that she should forget about going to college, and should instead find a job at a meatpacking plant. But Msengi says she decided it was better to push ahead and get an education. She says it was very difficult because she knew very few words of English, but Msengi says she knew it was important to get and education and learn English before getting a job.
Msengi was surprised to received the award. She says she didn’t expect it, and says it’s exciting and an honor. She says,”I try to do my best to try and give back, because my community has been so good to me.”
Msengi says the support she got was important, and that’s why she tries to give back. She says there have been dedicate, wonderful people who have supported her and she says that’s why she tries to give back. Msengi also encourages other immigrants to do what they can to help out others. Msengi is the sixth person to receive the award.