November 15, 2013
On November 12, Fulton-Montgomery Community College student Grace Rutagengwa was an invited guest at the United Nations in New York City to speak about the Rwanda Genocide, which took the lives of her loved ones, and tell how athletics helped her cope with this tragedy.
Rutagengwa was seated alongside cyclist legend Jock Boyer; author and journalist Philip Gourevitch; and director and producer of the documentary Rising from Ashes T.C. Johnstone. The documentary follows Rwanda’s first cycling team, which was assembled and coached by Boyer, as they set out against incredible odds to become a symbol of hope and promise for a country marred by the 1994 genocide. The film illustrates the therapeutic power of sports but also carries a message of faith and redemption for the individual team members, their coach, and their country.
In the post filming discussion, Rutagengwa, a former member of Rwanda’s National basketball team and a former member of FM’s Lady Raiders basketball team, shared how sports helped her to recover from the trauma of losing her own parents and siblings in the genocide that claimed more than 800,000 Tutsi lives. A poised Rutagengwa told the audience and multiple national radio stations how sports provided her the discipline, life skills, and feeling of family that was missing when she lost her entire family in 1994. Additionally, like the members of the Rwandan cycling team, sports provided a distraction from traumatic memories and helped foster healing and forgiveness.
“Grace was one of the nicest girls to ever play for me in my 15 years at FM,” said Athletic Director and Women’s Basketball Coach Kevin Jones who accompanied Grace to the U.N. along with Robin DeVito, FM’s Accessibility Coordinator, who is in the process of adopting Grace. “To persevere through the tragic events that she encountered in her life is a testament to her strength and courage as a survivor. She has touched my life forever and I am grateful for the time we have shared. I only hope that her remarkable story will continue to touch other lives. Grace need not worry about how far she will go in life, she has already traveled further than many of us can only imagine.”
The event drew more visitors than could be accommodated by the 550 seat U.N. Conference Room.