Student Success Stories

Ngabo Nzigira

Ngabo Nzigira


"I learned to be a real student during my time at CRC, not just skate by, or do it for someone else, during this time I learned to plan out my goals, pursue them for myself and make sacrifices."

Every path has bumps, may it be math or chemistry. Ngabo Nzigira, a Cosumnes River College transfer student, learned from these bumps on the road and earned his bachelor's degree from University of California, Davis (UCD) in 2011. Now, Nzigira is ready to leap back to UCD, joining the School of Medicine.

"I have no doubt Ngabo will be challenged as a medical student, yet I'm confident he'll overcome those challenges, taking them on as opportunities, and continue to soar,"said CRC MESA Coordinator Michael Carney. "Pre-Med students who come from CRC repeatedly tell me they were well prepared by their science and mathematics instructors at CRC and other Los Rios campuses."

Nzigira received his bachelor's degree in Nutrition Sciences. After graduating from Davis, Nzigira took the path of a public health educator in Ecuador, a volunteer program with the Peace Corps which concludes in a few months.

"I was slow coming to my decision to go to medical school," said Nzigira. "Through classes, volunteering and conversations with doctors, I really fell for the career."

Early on, Nzigira's parents had aspiring dreams for Ngabo, pushing his interests toward academics and visits to the library. Seeking a better life, Ngabo's parents emigrated from Rwanda in the early 1980s.

"I consider this move to be something extremely fortunate on my part because if they hadn't there is the possibility that I would have been a child during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda where almost a million people with my families classification were killed," lamented Nzigira. "As I got older and more knowledgeable, I am constantly reminded of the luck and opportunity I was given just because I was born here."

As immigrants starting a new generation in U.S., Nzigira family struggled financially and lived with limited resources. Both parents pressed the importance of education as a way out of their struggles. Nzigira may have been slow to walk towards medical school, but his parents had envisioned this path much earlier.

"My mother will swear I came home from preschool wearing scrubs," said Nzigira. "She always knew."

In his senior year at Florin High, Ngabo applied to three University of California campuses: Davis, Berkeley and Merced. He received an acceptance letter only from Merced but his heart and mind was already walking towards Davis. Unable to walk away from Davis, he appealed UC Davis for admission only to be denied that path again.

Upon touring the UC Merced campus, Nzigira found the campus to be a bit bare of infrastructure and also learned from his father that they could not afford to send him to UC Merced at the time. Ngabo decided to keep his part-time job, save money, take classes at Cosumnes River College and eventually transfer.

"I learned to be a real student during my time at CRC, not just skate by, or do it for someone else," said Nzigira. "During this time I learned to plan out my goals, pursue them for myself and make sacrifices."

As a full-time student enrolled in calculus and chemistry, and working 20 hours a week, it was taking a toll on Nzigira. He completed calculus II but it was one of those subjects that required all of his attention and took away time he could spend on other subjects.

"Math was always an Achilles heel for me," said Nzigira. "I sought out help at the Learning Resource Center and during office hours. I was a frequent guest at the Math Lab, and benefitted greatly from the tutoring I received there."

Nzigira trimmed his hours at work, tightened his spending and relied on his savings and financial aid to complete the school year. Backpacking to Yosemite in Professor Debra Sharkey's class and getting excited about human anatomy in Professor Andrea Salmi's class, Nzigira discovered his community college professors among the best teachers.

"(Anthropology Professor) Anastasia Panagakos taught me about how teachers at the community college level are actually the best around because all their efforts are directed at teaching," said Nzigira. "She taught me how to appreciate the treasure trove of instruction I found at CRC."

After not getting admission at UCD from high school, Nzigira walked on to the commencement ceremony stage, delivered a speech in front of his graduating class and received his degree.

He never walked away from his dream. Now he is walking a step closer to his dream - medical school.

"Don't ever give up, you can do it," advises Nzigira. "A lot of times it will require a sacrifice, but that's a price you have to be willing to pay for your dream."