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Horizon Christian has international flair

Tualatin school boasts diverse student body

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - At Horizon Christian High School, international director Jodi Gill instructs (from left) Parker Belan, Kyle Esquerra and Mike Ngabo. This year, international students make up 13 percent of Horizon Christians student body.Horizon Christian High School senior Mike Ngabo Jabo hasn’t settled on his dream college yet, but he knows exactly what he wants to do when he gets there: study engineering, so he can return to his native Rwanda and quite literally build bridges to support his country’s infrastructure.

The senior at Horizon Christian High School in Tualatin has the typical out-of-towner’s complaints about the area: the weather’s a bit cold. And as for the local foodie culture — well, it’s a bit heavy on the meat.

Still, by all accounts, Jabo has adjusted — and thrived — during his year abroad.

Jabo is one of 17 students in Horizon Christian’s international program. His classmates hail from China, South Korea, Japan and the Ivory Coast and have the opportunity to attend the school from freshman year on.

Now in its fourth year, the program has grown significantly since its early days with only two participants. Horizon’s ratio of 15 students to every teacher allows teachers to focus on students and to maintain a rigorous approach to English immersion. Director Jodi Gill explained that intensive English as a Second Language support is typically only available to students during their first year at Horizon Christian.

“We specialize in the English language and American adaptation,” Gill said, adding that the program actively encourages students to branch out of linguistic circles and avoid the temptation of only seeking out friends who speak their native language.

“That really does hinder progress,” Gill said. “We have a huge push to get these kids mainstream by the end of the year.”

“Studies show it takes three to seven years to immerse 100 percent,” Gill added. “We try to do the best we can to (make it) in that three-year mark.”

Jabo is fully immersed, with a course load that includes calculus, physics, health, economics and writing, in addition to regular Bible study. Gill describes Jabo as an academic success, and a notable basketball player.

Some aspects of life at Horizon Christian are familiar to Jabo, who describes his family as Catholic. Until he moved to Tualatin, he attended a school run by Christian missionaries.

It was the school’s friendly culture that stood out to Jabo.

“They focus on relationships,” he said. “When I came, I felt like everybody knew me. They kept introducing themselves to me, showing me around, talking like we knew each other. Like I was already a part of them. The students and the teachers were really welcoming.”

Jabo lives with host parents David and Debbie Boyle, who started welcoming students five years ago.

“We just enjoy hearing about other cultures, and we thought it would be fun for our son to meet other cultures,” Debbie said.

Jabo was inspired to move to Tualatin in part because he has cousins attending high school in Canyon City. Prior to his move, Jabo spent his entire life in the city of Kigaali, the capital of a country whose very name has become inextricably linked with the 1994 genocide, which claimed the lives of up to one million citizens.

Jabo described how his parents both fled Rwanda to escape the violence.

“They moved out west to the Congo,” Jabo said. “That’s where they met, and got their education.”

Jabo’s older sister, who is currently attending community college in Texas, and his older brother, who has plans to join her, were both born in the Republic of Congo. A violent regime change compelled the family to return to Rwanda, where Jabo was born, in the mid-1990s.

His father, Paul Jabo, now serves as executive secretary of Rwanda’s Western Province. Gill points out that one of Jabo’s classmates hails from the Ivory Coast, where his own father serves as the country’s minister of transportation.

Jabo says his father is a huge proponent of studying abroad, but encourages his children to return home after completing their educations.

“These kids have amazing visions and goals,” Gill said, adding that one of Jabo’s similarly ambitious classmates has his sights set on John Hopkins University.

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