Niya Nyapamba ’22 didn’t start to open up about surviving the Gatumba Massacre until she was a student at Boise’s East Junior High School, when she began taking theater classes.
“That’s when I started being more open to whoever interacted with me. My theater arts class helped me be more vocal,” Niya said. “I feel like theater helped me cope with my past.”
On Aug. 13, 2004, most of Niya’s immediate family survived a massacre at a refugee camp near the Gatumba Village in Burundi and immigrated to the United States as refugees. As a result, she hardly spoke until she started playing basketball and taking theater classes at East Junior High.
As she approached college Niya knew she’d have to pay for college herself and realized that “the only way I was going to…was through scholarships.” Her determination paid off when Nyapamba received two awards: the Britt Bowden Memorial Scholarship for the Performing Arts and the Dan Allen Peterson Memorial Scholarship in Theatre Arts and Film.
Nyapamba graduated with a BA in Theatre Arts with a minor in international business. She wrote The Act of Overcoming, a play about dealing with trauma, and in December of 2022, she delivered the university’s student commencement address. Next Fall, she will pursue her MBA at the University of Colorado in Denver.