Therence Ntihinduka: What ACE gives to me, and how I give back
Our first story for Kupanda Quarterly is written by ACE alumnus and current Worcester State University student, Therence. Therence and his family fled war in Burundi and spent years in a refugee camp in Tanzania before resettling in the United States in September 2015. He joined ACE shortly after and graduated from Doherty High School in 2019. He is now pursuing his degree at Worcester State University and has returned to ACE to work in the After School Program as a member of our Support Staff. Therence reflects on how his mentors at ACE helped him navigate starting college and why he chose to join the ACE staff and pass on that legacy of mentorship to current ACE students.
By Therence Ntihinduka
Support Staff, ACE
I had a 3.8 grade-point average in high school. My classmates joked about how smart I was. Yet, I was worried that college wasn’t for me. I thought it might be too challenging.
But Tereza, an ACE alum who now works on staff, was already in college at Worcester State University. She encouraged me to go. She thought college was hard, but that it was less hard if you manage your time well. I revealed my plans to her — I was not going to college.
Tereza said, “You’re ready to go to college!” So I thought, “I might go to college.”
I applied to seven colleges, and all of them accepted me. Kwame Yeboah, ACE’s Program Director at the time, convinced me to go into a four-year university rather than start with a two-year school. Despite my concerns that a four-year would be more difficult than a two-year, he insisted that I was capable of taking on that challenge. Soon after our conversation, I committed to Worcester State University.
While at Doherty High School, I had no clue what major to choose for college. Should I pursue business or biology? It was kind of terrifying to choose the major that I want to study for the rest of my life. I decided to go with business classes since I love managing the money in my bank account — and in my wallet. I knew I would enjoy learning how to manage money, how to make decisions about money, and how money is acquired, spent, and invested.
I also joined OMA (the Office of Multicultural Affairs) at Worcester State. So, whenever I have a question and my professors are not available at the time, I use OMA to help me either in academics or financial advice. I also got a job as a work-study student at Binienda Center for Civic Engagement, conducting research with the director, Dr. Mark Wagner.
Even though I’m in college now, ACE still boosts my academic performance by always showing and leading me in the right direction. Attending ACE helped me develop confidence, think outside the box, and dive deeper into my classwork.
ACE was always there when I needed help. One night, I couldn’t understand my English homework. I called my mentor Mike, and he helped me with it. In college, I apply the advice from my ACE family. They helped me gain the self-confidence and grades that I consistently maintain. I can always count on ACE to provide a safe environment if I need it.
But most importantly, I met the most amazing people at ACE. Thanks to my high school mentor and Assumption College professor Mike Land, I learned everything that I needed to be a college student. Mike has been my mentor at ACE for at least three years, and always encourages me to reach out to people when I do not understand something. Even though I graduated high school, Mike continues to inspire and help me in college. He told me most professors care for their students — even the professors who might have gotten some bad online reviews. So when I started college, I was not afraid to approach my professors and ask questions.
Mike once wrote a letter of recommendation for me as part of my scholarship application. I will never forget the words he wrote about me: “He will work hard to help by taking advantage of every learning opportunity to build a better life for himself — and along the way to that goal, I have every confidence that, with his intelligence and curiosity, he will find intrinsic value in the learning. As both his past hardships and his current commitments indicate, Therence will go about those goals while serving as an exemplary citizen in the classroom, on the broader campus, and out in the community beyond — continuing his current practice of passing along what he’s learned to those who come along behind him. They would do well to emulate his example.” Even though I try to be humble, I realized these things were true. That gives me the motivation to work hard in studies and my life in general.
Now, like Tereza, I work at ACE. Even in high school, I enjoyed giving back as a volunteer and sharing my testimony for ACE. In college, I feel the same desire to help my fellow students, changing their lives the way my ACE family changed mine. I try to show the students how I managed to get through high school and how they can too. Working at ACE as a former student is a great way to give back to the organization. Like Tereza, I pass down the legacy to inspire students to unlock their potential.
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