Burundi students chosen as homecoming royalty in Oshkosh

OSHKOSH — The Lourdes Academy student community has African royalty in their midst. Well, at least they did last week for their homecoming celebration.
Seniors Chantal Nizigiyimana and Olivier Ndorimana, both from Burundi, Africa, were elected 2015 homecoming queen and king for Lourdes Academy. The two, who are members of St. Raphael Parish in Oshkosh, are going to high school here through the Burundi Education Fund, a non-profit organization managed by the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Green Bay.

Olivier Ndorimana and Chantal Nizigyimana, Lourdes Academy homecoming king and queen, share a dance Oct. 17. The students are attending the Oshkosh Catholic high school through the Burundi Education Fund, a non-profit organization managed by the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Green Bay. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

The fund brings students with strong academic and leadership skills from Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world, to attend Catholic diocesan high schools. Chantal has been a student at Lourdes since the beginning of her junior year and Olivier is in his third year there.

Being nominated by their senior classmates for this honor was a surprise for both Chantal and Olivier but when the entire student body had the chance to vote and they won the top spot, they were overwhelmed. “I wasn’t expecting to be nominated,” said Chantal. “When Olivier told me we won, I said, ‘What does that even mean?’”

Chantal’s host mother, Charlene Dishaw, who is the religion teacher at Lourdes, could see why Chantal earned the coveted crown. “Chantal has an infectious, bubbly personality that people adore. She is active with not just her own class but she enjoys talking with freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. She has friends in all different classes.”

For Olivier’s host mother Laurene Brooks, it was a thrill to see Olivier get that recognition. “He was less than enthusiastic when he was nominated,” she noted. “He’s so humble, he said other people are so much more deserving. I said to him, ‘Did it ever occur to you that the reason you got this is because people like you?’ It took him a while but he took this very seriously and got into the spirit.”

It was a different story for Chantal. She loved being treated like a queen for the week from the start. “She loved every minute of it,” said Laurene. Charlene enjoyed pampering her host daughter for the week. “We had to get her a really beautiful dress. All she had were hand-me-downs. We got her nails done, we had to make sure she had the right jewelry.”

Homecoming was a busy week at Lourdes that included a theme for each day. Monday was jersey day, Tuesday toga day, Wednesday class colors day, Thursday dress up day for Mass, and Friday school colors — red and white — day.

In addition they had float building, a pep rally, a parade, the homecoming football game Friday night, and a school dance Saturday night. It was even busier for the royal couple as they had to perform in the pep rally, give a speech before the football game Friday, and learn formal dance moves for the dance Saturday.

The highlights of homecoming week for Olivier came on Saturday when he and Chantal were formally crowned. “I liked dressing up for Saturday night, the group homecoming pictures we took before the actual dance, going to dinner with all the seniors — and the slow dancing.”

For Chantal it was a long, busy week but she had favorite parts as well. “Writing my speech was fun. Building up the float. Riding on the convertible during the parade, giving the candy to the little kids. The dance was really fun.”

As for the moms, the moment that was most special for them was when Olivier and Chantal did their homecoming speech together. “We both cried after the speech. They were wonderful, they did a great job,” said Laurene. “I was exceedingly impressed with the speech,” added Charlene. “We encouraged Chantal and Olivier to make it their own.”

One of the lines in the speech that stood out was when Olivier noted, “We do find it interesting, though, that for a ‘HOME-coming,’ you’ve selected as your king and queen two people who couldn’t be further from home. Our home country is practically half-way around the world! But even though we’re far from home, we feel very much at home here at Lourdes Academy, which is a wonderful place to learn and where our faith is nurtured in a Christ-Centered environment that welcomes everyone.”
“It took them a while to understand that the students genuinely wanted them to be king and queen,” said Laurene. “To see the genuine enthusiasm and the genuine congratulations and sincerity of how they felt about Olivier and Chantal becoming king and queen was heartwarming.”

Burundi education fund

The Burundi High School Students in USA program assists Burundian students to earn their high school diploma in the United States; upon graduation the program’s assistance to the students ends.

Attending U.S. colleges would provide Burundian students with a quality education and enable them to gain further preparation to become 21st century servant leaders who can bring change to their impoverished native country. To learn more about assisting Burundi students after high school, contact Nancy Jodarski, (920) 810-3216; email: [email protected].