University of Wyoming alumnus Bertine Bahige was 13 years old, growing up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when a rebel group kidnapped him to become a child soldier. Two years later, he made a daring escape that brought him to a refugee camp in Mozambique. From there, Bahige entered a refugee resettlement program that took him to Baltimore, Md. He worked three jobs and attended community college, performing so well that UW offered him a scholarship.
“The University of Wyoming gave me a chance to dream about a quality education,” he says. “As a refugee who arrived in this country that I now call home with virtually nothing, I knew deep inside that education was a key to a successful future, but most importantly to an opportunity to give back to this great state and community that welcomed me. Through my courses at the university, coupled with the great professionals I came to know at a personal level, I feel that I was guided every step of the way to ensure my success.”
Bahige graduated from UW in 2009 with his bachelor’s in mathematics and mathematics education, and he then earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from South Dakota State University. He taught math at Campbell County High School for many years before taking the position of principal at Rawhide Elementary School in Gillette four years ago. There, he also serves as co-director of the school’s dual-immersion program, which he helped expand.
Refugees are looking for an opportunity, Bahige says, noting that many look at refugees in terms of what it will cost the state or country taking them in, without looking at the other side, which is what refugees bring and how they enrich the communities where they settle.
In addition to his work as principal, Bahige coaches soccer at Campbell County High School and is a board member for both the John Paul II Catholic School in Gillette as well as Children’s Developmental Services. He has also coached cross country and volunteered to help prepare high school students for the ACT while at the high school.
“I consider myself a Cowboy and proud product of the University of Wyoming,” Bahige says. “A true Cowboy is a hard worker—someone who is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. There is nothing compared to the resiliency and the hard work of a cowboy! Understanding that nothing will come easy but through hard work, perseverance and commitment to problem solving, everything is possible. The sky is the limit—this is what it means to be a Cowboy, and I am sure the world needs more of these Cowboys!”
He recommends UW to future students based on its quality and affordability: “I believe that UW provides the best opportunity for high-quality learning on an affordable budget in our state and region. I have seen the university grow a lot since I have been there in regard to academic and other opportunities for its young attendees. Based upon the recent research that I have read, our College of Education is ranked among the best in the region for an affordable price!”
Note: The video in this post was shot prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.