When Catherine Rutainurwa applied to Lorain County Community College, she had no idea what to expect from the college or from Lorain County.

An international student from Tanzania, Rutainurwa heard about LCCC from a friend who had also attended the college.

“I knew I wanted to come to study in the United States, but I didn’t know where to go,” she recalled. “I knew I didn’t want to come to large place like New York City, so a friend highly suggested LCCC.”

Rutainurwa, 25, will earn an Associate of Arts degree from LCCC on May 5.

Rutainurwa came to LCCC in 2007. Through LCCC’s International Student Services, she was placed with a host family in Lorain. Through the host family, Rutainurwa became part of the Lorain community. She was selected to participate in the Katrina Leadership Project and traveled across the country to network with other college students.

The leadership experience opened doors for Rutainurwa, and she was selected to complete an internship on Capitol Hill with the office of U.S. Congresswoman Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

During a Reclaim Lorain rally, she met U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and later that day wrote him a nine-page letter about her experiences in Lorain County. Brown responded to the letter and invited her to visit his office in Washington, D.C.

Her many adventures were enhanced and supported by her education at LCCC, she said.

“I have worked with the most caring advisers and instructors who made my concerns theirs and who made my performance in class their business,” she said.

Rutainurwa lived in Lorain until 2009, when she married her husband, Andrae Brown, whom she met at a bible study group. The couple moved to Columbus and Rutainurwa took a break from her classes to focus on her new family. The couple now has a 2-year-old daughter, Imani Brown.

“When I was ready to complete my degree, my husband encouraged me to continue online classes at LCCC since I’d had such a great experience,” she said. Her husband who is currently a store manager for AT&T also plans to finish his business degree at LCCC through online courses.

Through online courses, Rutainurwa was able to finish her degree at LCCC while living in Columbus. She also works full-time at Huntington Mortgage Group. 

While balancing a full-time job, family responsibilities and college courses was a challenge, she said she is grateful for the support she received from her husband and LCCC.

“I am sad to leave LCCC but I am very happy I came here,” she said. “All of my experiences were due to the great education and opportunities I received at LCCC. I recommend this college to anyone.”

She will continue her education at The Ohio State University where she will major in International Relations and minor in Political Science. She plans to attend law school after she earns a bachelor’s degree.