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Rwandan’s Successful Kids Are America’s Gain

For Rwandan native Judith Mukaruziga, home is a central part of life. As a real estate agent in State College, Pennsylvania, Mukaruziga takes great satisfaction in helping clients find just the right house. But her greatest sense of meaning comes from building a loving, stable home with her husband and three children. “My focus is my family,” she says. “It was important for me to raise my children myself.”

Mukaruziga has an MBA from Pennsylvania State University, but she turned to real estate because it gave her more flexibility to spend time with her children. The decision has paid off: Her eldest daughter, Umutoni, co-owns a security company in California with her husband and hosts a YouTube channel, “42 & Pregnant”; her younger daughter, Kankindi, is a patent and trademark lawyer in Denver; and her son, Rugigana, recently received an MBA and is working at his own company in State College.

Immigrants don’t want to take anything away from Americans. They just want to come and work hard.

In many ways Murkaruziga’s children are typical of second-generation Americans. A 2013 report by the Pew Research Center found that the children of immigrants attain household incomes and home-ownership rates that are, on average, on a par with the U.S. population as a whole. They are also more likely to graduate from college: 36 percent compared with 31 percent of native-born Americans.

Mukaruziga’s husband, Augustin Banyaga, who is also a Rwandan immigrant, serves as a distinguished professor of mathematics at Penn State. He earned a PhD from the University of Geneva; was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey; and taught at Harvard University and Boston University before joining the Penn State faculty in 1984.

After the Rwandan Civil War broke out in 1994, the couple became U.S. citizens. Mukaruziga was then able to help friends and family members come to the United States as refugees. They’ve done well: A few became nurses and accountants; two started a trucking company; and Mukaruziga’s nephew recently received his medical degree and is training to become a neurosurgeon.

Mukaruziga thinks the United States would benefit from flexible immigration policies that could enable more intelligent and hardworking people to contribute to the country. “Immigrants don’t want to take anything away from Americans. They just want to come and work hard,” she says.

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