South Bend senior wins Manchester's full-ride Multicultural Excellence in Leadership Scholarship
Bujuga Lawrence speaks 3 languages, aids refugee asylym seekers
North Manchester, IN (04/17/2023) — Manchester University is proud to announce that John Adams High School senior Bujuga Lawrence has won its full-ride Multicultural Excellence in Leadership Scholarship.
The academic scholarship covers tuition, fees, room and meal plan expenses for up to four years.
The 18-year-old has already lived in three countries and speaks three languages: English, Arabic and French.
"I grew up in many places. I have lived on the banks of the Mediterranean, in the rural south of Ethiopia and the downtown neighborhoods of South Bend, Indiana," he said. "I have learned to have an open world view and to take time to learn and love others."
Through it all, he has learned valuable lessons about hard work and sacrifice.
"I have been accused of being a serious person sometimes, but I think it's because of the amount of trauma I've been through in my life," he said. "I was adopted at a young age and replay the scenes of my mother crying as she let go of her baby boy and placed him in the care of nannies who worked at an orphanage in a small city in Ethiopia. That little boy had to learn how to live in this world quickly."
Adopted out of the orphanage at age 5 by a family in the U.S. who later moved to Tunisia in North Africa, he found himself knowing only English in a school where people spoke Arabic or French and in a culture that was not always welcoming.
Tunisians are lighter skinned, he said, and many value being "as light-skinned as possible." As he learned the languages, he also began to understand rude and racist comments some made about him.
"It was really sad for me to hear, and demeaning to me as a person," he said, but at the same time he was building strong friendships.
"We spent countless hours talking about who we were as people and who they were and their Tunisian language and culture, and I started to learn the street language and stuff."
He said that experience was amazing. "I was American, and they were Tunisian - but we learned about each other, and we were able to see the unique side of each other as people."
His friends stood up for him, even rebuking an older person who said something racist to him. Lawrence said getting to know each other as people is the only real solution to racial discrimination.
"We need to step away from our comfort zones. I think when we can see the individual, and listen to the individual, and really embrace the individual with friendship, then we can truly understand the person. Having these relationships and having this outlook really prevents you from believing - and also creating - a narrative that is not true," he said.
"I think we should look back to what Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. believed and really lived out, when he said, 'Love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.'"
Leanna Shepard, Lawrence's English and history teacher at Bizerte International Academy in Tunisia, said this about him: "I've witnessed in the classroom his sense of justice and compassion which propels him to act boldly but with tact on behalf of the marginalized. He has a gift for bringing people together and focusing on their commonalities in order to together reach a goal."
Where he now lives in South Bend, Lawrence volunteers with Neighbor to Neighbor, where he spent the last year helping immigration lawyer Barbara Szweda organize paperwork for asylum cases on behalf of refugees from Afghanistan. His mother, Kristin, is volunteer coordinator at the organization. His father, Charles, works for the state of Indiana.
Bujuga Lawrence's academic areas of interest are psychology and nursing.
"This scholarship is an opportunity for Manchester to encourage the leaders of tomorrow," said President Dave McFadden. "Bujuga is a young man of ability and conviction, and I have no doubt he will make the world a better place and improve the human condition. I am beyond pleased to welcome him to the Manchester community."
The full-ride scholarship comes with the expectation of leadership at Manchester as well as maintaining academic requirements.
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More about Neighbor to Neighbor
Manchester offers a number of scholarships, but only two full-ride scholarships, the Multicultural Excellence in Leadership Scholarship and Honors Scholarship. More about Manchester scholarships.
In North Manchester and Fort Wayne, Ind., Manchester provides vibrant and transformative student experiences. Learn more at www.manchester.edu/about-manchester.
Manchester University respects the infinite worth of every individual and graduates persons of ability and conviction who draw upon their education and faith to lead principled, productive, and compassionate lives that improve the human condition.