0 Friday, December 07, 2012

Student wins esteemed award at forum

by Beatrice Cochran

Dreams reams came true for Yves Iradukunda, a student at Oklahoma Christian University majoring in computer science and math who won the Innovation Creativity Oklahoma Forum Prize. 

“When I saw that I had won the award I was happy and certainly sure that God is providing ways to make what was a dream become true,” Iradukunda said. “I believe that one day the water crisis in Rwanda will come to an end. I know that God is providing ways to make that happen.”

This was the Oklahoma Creativity Innovation Forum’s third year to attract hundreds of educators, students, businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators. One of the students it attracted was Yves Iradukunda who saw it as an opportunity to make his project Rwandan Emerging Leaders and Entrepreneurship (ELE Rwanda) known.

At the Forum Iradukunda spoke about ELE Rwanda and how its training and preparing Rwanda’s youth in the business world by shaping them with the necessary skills.

Yves Iradukunda became aware of the Creativity Oklahoma Forum through his connections with its president, Susan McCalmont. Iradukunda worked with McCalmont over the 2012 summer for the ELE Rwanda summit.

“I wanted to participate to raise awareness for Rwandans for Water and Rwandan Emerging Leaders and Entrepreneurship,” Iradukunda said. “My motivation was because of my relationship I had built through Creative Oklahoma Innovation Forum President, Susan McCalmont, who helped me.”

In the summer of 2011, Iradukunda went back to Rwanda where he was able to work side by side with other students digging more water wells for the community.

It was this time in Rwanda that inspired Iradukunda to start his ELE Rwanda project, which is helping Rwandan youths with its innovation and entrepreneurship skills.

“I worked with young people who inspired me to provide more job opportunities,” Iradukunda said. “I believe that entrepreneurship is the background for the economy of Rwanda.”

Senior Timothy Kaboya is a co-founder of ELE Rwanda. Kaboya was pleased when Iradukunda won the Creativity Oklahoma Innovation Prize.

“I was happy when Yves won it,” Kaboya said. “Winning the prize was an appreciation for all the work we had done back in Rwanda. It was recognition of the work done by Rwandans for Water in previous years. It feels good to be appreciated, and it’s going to go a long way to help with what we are doing.”

Don Drew, dean of graduate programs and professor of business, has known Iradukunda for a few years and has worked closely with him.

“I was extremely pleased when I found out Yves had won the prize,” Drew said. “I introduced Yves to some people to get his Rwandan Emerging Leaders and

Entrepreneurs started. He did a very good job because it raised a lot of attention of student-based social entrepreneurial efforts. I know how hard he and the others worked for it and that is why he won it. It was a huge success.”

Iradukunda has big dreams to use the money he won to continue digging wells in Rwanda.

With the money, one dream has come true for Iradukunda.

He will be able to manufacture tools in Rwanda to help the process of digging wells be faster than before.

“With the $5,000, we are planning to impact the Rwandan community in many ways,” Iradukunda said. “We are going to support a facility to provide tools. Originally the tools are manufactured in the United States, but hopefully next year we will have the tools for digging wells in Rwanda.”

For Iradukunda, it’s all about using opportunities to make a difference in the world.

He encourages students like him to take part and to be a part of something that really matters.

“We are striving to make a difference in our country,” Iradukunda said. “Oklahoma Christian has been home to many of us from Rwanda. Oklahoma Christian gives students opportunities to be involved, to make a difference in the world.”

Iradukunda encouraged Oklahoma Christian students to be a part of the bigger picture by helping others.

“I want to encourage students not to wait until they graduate to be involved,” Iradukunda said. “You can make a difference even when you are still in school, don’t wait until you graduate.”

Photo by: Henoc Kivuye

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