Jean Leon Iragena was born on September 8th, 1990. Jean Leon is, if not the youngest, among the youngest Rwandan writers. He published his first novel called “Rusaro” when he was barely 19. He has also shown his writing skills in many ways including publishing numerous articles approaching different challenges of this millennium. Jean Leon Iragena is not only known for his writing skills; he is also famous for his academic success in the country of a thousand hills. After a brilliant success in 3 national exams he was awarded by the president of Rwanda a scholarship to study in the United States of America where he founded Isaro Foundation in 2011. He is currently double majoring in Applied Mathematics and Pure Economics at Millsaps College, one of the best American schools. Jean Leon’s leadership skills qualified him to be elected as the commissioner of knowledge and skills in Rwanda Diaspora Global Network in 2011. On December 18th, 2012, Jean Leon Iragena was elected as the commissioner of youth and culture in the Rwandan diaspora around the globe. He is the only Rwandan in the twenties who holds such a powerful position.
"Thank you [Jean Leon Iragena] for the good work u are doing as a Rwandan leader in the diaspora....you have our support!" President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda.
"I sincerely appreciate the meaningful work you [Jean Leon Iragena] are doing on behalf of the people of your homeland. I’m also thankful that you are such a marvelous student and wonderful ambassador for Millsaps" President Robert Pearigen of Millsaps College.
"Jean Leon is not satisfied to say ’I’ve got mine. My future is assured. Why rock the boat?’ Instead, he wants to know what he can do to help others. In a world that might make him selfish, he’s a pretty self-less guy" Ken Blackwell, senior Vice President and Chief Architect of CA Technologies Inc.
"[Jean Leon Iragena is] a great example of initiative and self-drive to improve the life of the larger community. He is a great model for our students by demonstrating that, ’You don’t rest on your laurels. You build on them" Dr. David Davis, associate professor of history and associate dean of arts and letters at Millsaps College.
Iragena’s Personal Statement
Normally, I rarely talk about myself. However, when the designer of this website encouraged me to share my experience on the website, I said: "well, I feel like this time, it is worth it." I did not only accept to say something about myself because the website designer asked me to do so, but also because of the Rwanda’s today and future generation that I extremely love and have hope in.
Born in a normal family in the suburbs of Kigali city, I did not grow to experience my father’s writing and leadership skills. He only left us when I, the elder of the family was barely 5. My mother knew where the richness comes from; knowledge. She struggled to have me and my brothers go to school, so did we struggle by studying hard to make sure her money was not spent in vain.
In my early life, the only thing I would dream of was to carry on my father’s "unfinished" life. I never knew I would do it through writing till the idea of writing a book came into my mind at the age of 18. I asked help from friends and started writing my first novel, "Rusaro" which was published a year later. Till then, I did not have greater ambitions other than continuing my writing career.
Later in the year I published my first novel in, I was offered a presidential scholarship by H.E Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda to go to continue my university studies in the United States of America. Later, after my freshman year, pushed by the change I want to see in my country and my writing career, I saw something important in the United States I hurried to take back home, the American culture of reading and writing.
As a science major, I had never realized that the first thing I would quickly want to take back home would be reading and writing skills. However, I judged it to be the most needed thing in Rwandan primary and high schools. For this cause I started Isaro Foundation. As a student, I had nothing to start with; I mean nothing. I had no money, no resources, and no big support. I only had one friend in Connecticut who was helping me improving my initiative and put it in action. I never knew, by that time, that what matters the most is a great initiative.
After many months of personal reflection, on October 15th, 2011, I went ahead and proclaimed the creation of Isaro Foundation. The next day, my inbox was full of people’s messages. I was anxious to read them. I was surprised how various people, from students to high Rwandan governmental authorities had appreciated the idea. That was a good beginning to me.
However, there were many struggles and challenges ahead; managing and assuring the future and credibility of a new foundation is not as easy as I thought. Thanks God, my real friends were always there for me and for the foundation. I always say: they did it. All these young men and women that are in the administration of Isaro Foundation deserve the most credit that can be given to anyone else who contributed to the progress of this foundation. The experience of the first 5 months has shown Isaro Foundation can triumph. Isaro Foundation can make history in Rwandan education by raising readers and writers, thus critical thinkers.
Quotes by Jean Leon Iragena
"What matters is not your success, but your influence on others’ success." 29 January 2013
"Sleeping is one of the luxuries I can’t afford." 20 November 2013
Click here to read more quotes from Iragena
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The Founder of Isaro Foundation Interview on Marcus Harun Reports
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For Schools and Libraries Which Need Books
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