Child refugee denied senior year sports eligibility
BATON ROUGE - A kid who immigrated to the United States when he was twelve won't get a chance to play sports during senior year of high school.
In an 11-8 vote this week, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association rejected Clement Mubungirwa's request to participate in organized sports next school year.
Munbungirwa and his family escaped the war-torn Congo when he was a child and for the past year, he's carved out a name for himself in the Episcopal High football team's backfield.
"Really crushed," Mubungirwa,18, responded when asked about getting denied. "A kid who had no education, no nothing, starting from scratch when I came here."
Mubungirwa did not know English when he first started school in America.
"He was four years behind as a seventh grader and he put in the time," coach Travis Bourgeous said. "He put in the effort and he caught up with that to get on status with everyone else."
But Mubungirwa is still a year behind and will be 19-years-old when next year's season starts.
"I may be too old but I'm nothing big. I'm not a threat to anyone. I mean, you look at me; I'm not going to hurt anybody on the field. I'm just a kid; 170, 5'9"," he said.
But the only number that matters to the LHSAA is Mubungirwa's age.
In a written statement, the association said, "The administration of Episcopal did a very good job of presenting the student's situation and the adversity that he has overcome. The LHSAA Executive Committee heard the appeal but ultimately did not reverse the ruling. The 19-year-old age rule has always been strictly enforced and has never been overturned. The LHSAA is proud of Clement and all his accomplishments and wish him the best in his future endeavors."
Mubungwira, who also plays soccer, feels the members who voted against him made the wrong choice.
"God Bless them," he said. "I've still got that dream. I'm going to have a hold of it. No matter if there is a door that is closed. I believe there is another one that is not going to be easy. But I'm going to work for that no matter what it takes. I'm going to give it my best and if I fail, I know that I did my best and did all that I could to reach it."
"It's a tough position but just because you haven't overturned a decision in over 20 years doesn't mean you can't," Bourgeous said.