Muhizi’s story of becoming a U.S. citizen has been a difficult journey, a journey that has taken her far from her former life.
“Everything, good or bad, I go through here in America I consider pure joy, because I have seen what poverty and rock bottom feels like,” said Muhizi. “I constantly force myself to never forget where I came from, because without that past I never would have known what happiness feels like. I am glad that I'm not there anymore, but I'm even gladder I was there.”
Born in Rwanda, Africa, Muhizi relocated to the United States on Oct. 21, 2009, along with her mother and two brothers. Before then, she spent the first 13 years of her life in a refugee camp in Mozambique.
Today, Muhizi is a high-achieving student at Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS), where she currently has a 4.00 GPA and was recently selected to be a platoon commander for the 2nd trimester of the academic year.
“Every year there are one to two midshipman candidates who arrive at NAPS needing to complete naturalization prior to reporting to the U.S. Naval Academy,” said retired Capt. Mark Donahue, NAPS command services director. “Each story is unique, but Midshipman Candidate Muhizi's story is particularly compelling. Growing up in a refugee camp from the time she was a baby, she has embraced her adversity, and it has made her a high achiever.”
The ceremony, which swore in 32 new U.S. citizens from 21 different countries, is one Muhizi won’t soon forget.
“It feels awesome to be a citizen because that means I can now attend the academy,” said Muhizi. “I feel a little more patriotic than I did before I was a citizen.”
“NAPS has helped me get more familiar with the military lifestyle, I was blessed with a leadership position as a platoon commander,” said Muhizi. “This position helped me become more confident in my leadership abilities and gave me a perspective on how hard peer leadership is.”
Advanced Physics Professor John Macaluso said Muhizi’s positive approach, dedication and motivation are what make her a top student at NAPS.
“Muhizi is one of the hardest working and most dedicated students in my class. She consistently gives full effort towards every topic, assignment, and discussion,” said Macaluso. “She works very well with others and causes those around her to live up to her level of motivation. She's inquisitive, smart and approaches everything with a positive attitude.”
“When Muhizi got her paperwork for her interview with the citizenship board, the entire platoon was happy for her,” said Chief Aviation Support Equipment Technician (AW) Kathryn Kennon, 1st Company senior enlisted leader. “She brings a smile to others just being in the room because she has a positive outlook on life.”
According to Donahue, Muhizi plans to study engineering while at the Naval Academy and possibly join the submarine community after graduation.
“She has all the hallmarks of someone who will make an exceptional officer: passion for the job, compassion for people, superb technical knowledge and stamina,” said Donahue. “She gets along very well with everyone. Her smile and kind demeanor improve morale whenever she is around.
“Being able to make people like Diane Muhizi U.S. citizens is what has made this country great and is what gives me such great confidence in the future of our nation.”
Muhizi credits her mother Basilissa, who survived the genocide in Rwanda, as her inspiration and driving force.
“When it comes to who inspires me, my mother Basilissa is always going to be on top of that list,” said Muhizi. “My mother is the kind of person that even after being hit by mountains of trouble, she'll still get back up and pick up where she left off. She's been through the worst of the worst, not mentioning experiencing the genocide itself. Yet she never lost hope. She's always looking for a way to make sure that her children are happy and safe. Her selflessness and caring for others is what I admire.”