In the Rwandan culture women keep their names upon marrying and children born to them do not necessarily carry their mother’s or father’s surname. Names can be chosen by the family.
This is how Douglas Kempthorne came to be named. His father, Theo Mbabaliye, was studying at the University of Idaho when genocide broke out in his homeland of Rwanda in the mid-1990s. Desperately wanting to bring his wife, Immaculee Mukakalisa, to America, he sought help from Idaho’s Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, who successfully helped him in obtaining a visa for her. And so when a child was born to the couple, they named him Douglas Kempthorne – now a 17-year-old senior at Gonzaga Prep School, about to graduate and with the goal of going on to medical school.
Kempthorne, a quiet and formerly shy young man, lives in Spokane with his mother, and he credits his school with helping him find his voice. “There is wonderful energy and spirit there, and I was very interested in the college prep focus.”
Very active in honors and advanced placement classes, he is fully immersed in school and community activities. He is on Gonzaga Prep’s Link Crew, helping mentor ninth-graders, and is a member of the National Honor Society. As vice president for athletic activities with the Associated Student Body, he helped create the spirit march in which students do a thunder clap and chant entering the student section at football games to increase attendance and spirit at games. And he’s played varsity soccer.
He volunteered as a math aide for sixth-graders at Bemiss Elementary and also began teaching physics to one student there who had an interest and aptitude for it. He also volunteered at Holy Family Hospital, where he had the opportunity to meet a number of medical professionals, one of whom, a pediatric gastroenterologist, has inspired him to pursue the same medical discipline.
Kempthorne was able to visit his parents’ native Rwanda when he was in ninth grade and got to spend time there with his grandmother. Although he was nervous there at first, he did venture out and found kids his own age who liked karate just like he did and began to enjoy the sense of community he found in that culture.
He said his faith is important to him and will be affirming that publicly. His parents are Catholic, and he was raised in that faith, but his parents wanted him to be older before getting baptized, so that the decision would be his to make. He has decided to be baptized this month.
This fall Kempthorne will be attending Gonzaga University with a full-ride Act Six Scholarship, one given to low-income students who wish to attend faith- and social justice-based colleges so they can develop themselves into the kind of community leaders they show the potential of becoming.
“I so truly am interested in education and find I really enjoy being able to help people,” he said. “I am so grateful for this opportunity.”