How Emilia Kabare Is Proving We Are All 'Limitless'

We typically use Woman Crush Wednesday to highlight rising celebrities, but tomorrow is International Women's Day, so we're doing things a little differently and sharing the story of a young woman who embodies exactly why the day is worth celebrating.

Her name is Emilia Kabare, and she's an 18-year-old from Rwanda who took the time to speak with us about her incredible journey so far.

Emilia Kabare WCW art

(Photo credit: Emmanuel Dushimirimana)

All her life, she's aimed to excel in academics. She was first in her class in elementary school, earning her a spot at a prestigious secondary school. Emilia's family didn't have much money, and she found it strange to attend among students who were also brilliant but from rich families that were so unlike hers.

With both of her parents unemployed, Emilia's father took a loan to pay for her schooling. Still, she was unable to pay her school fees on time, and the threat of getting kicked out of school loomed over her again and again.

When the time came for Emilia to take her national examinations, she wasn't allowed to take the test because she owed the school money. It was one of her lowest points.

"Honestly, I felt like the whole world was crashing on me but I always kept in mind that strength and courage will get me there. Plus, I had hope for a scholarship once I finished high school. That's what kept me going." -Emilia

But her father spoke to the school, pleading to let Emilia continue, and they made an exception for her. She was able to take the test, getting an excellent score that shocked everyone who doubted her.

"I am quiet and keep to myself, so I think people consider me a person who gives up easily, which is totally the opposite of who I really am. What they don't understand is that I'm a survivor, and I always keep my head down and work hard until the mission is accomplished."Emilia

But academics weren't her only passion. She also loved music. She started singing, rapping and dancing in school performances, inspired by many English-speaking artists.

"I do R&B and hip-hop. The people who inspire me in R&B are Whitney Houston, Adele and Rihanna. When it comes to hip-hop, it's Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Tech N9ne, The Game and Kendrick Lamar." -Emilia

And above all else, Emilia's main goal became attending a top U.S. university. She already soaked up English by watching TV with her friends whenever they had time to spare, and she was fluent by fifth grade.

"The ones I like the most were shows on Nickelodeon— mainly iCarly, SpongeBob SquarePants, Penguins of Madagascar and the Twilight movies. My friends would put them on a USB thumb drive and then we'd find a place to watch them on weekends and after school."Emilia

Propelled by her desire to go an American college, she took her national exams again the following year and aimed for excellence. She also started earning money for SAT prep classes and exams.

She soon found herself working in an art store every day of the week to save up. Her talents and eagerness went unrecognized by the shop, but during her second week of work she met American filmmaker Matthew Leutwyler.

Matthew has a charity called We Are Limitless that helps Rwandan children get high-quality educations. He saw a lot of potential in Emilia.

He asked her to quit her job to focus on her studies. In exchange, he'd give her the wages she'd have earned working, as well as pay for a teacher to help Emilia maximize her learning.

"Meeting Matthew and becoming part of the charity means everything to me. I asked Matthew why he chose me to be part of WAL. He said that it's simple—because all children have a value and that we are all worth something. Being one of the students in WAL made me feel like I stand a chance for a better future. I will not let him or myself down."Emilia

Matthew's intervention changed her life in other ways as well. For example, Emilia had never had her photo taken before getting involved with We Are Limitless.

"Being in front of the camera gave me hope that one day I'll reach my goals. In that moment I felt like I was finally touching destiny with the tips of my fingers. So seeing myself in a photograph made me believe that a person can start from zero to hero."Emilia

Emilia Kabare smiling

(Photo credit: Emmanuel Dushimirimana)

She's also learned to take what she learned along the way, applying her skills to her journey. She says her musical performances made her fearless in front of a crowd and that her courage has the potential to take her so much further.

"Since I will be meeting new people in university, I would say that the performances prepared me for it all. Also when I perform in front of a crowd , I feel like I am embracing my future. That helps me believe that I have a chance to really conquer all these obstacles that I have faced in school." – Emilia

Emilia took the SAT last month, and though it will be a moment before she sees her results, we have faith that she's already on the path to great things. While she hasn't settled on a single university as a dream school, she has a few ideas in mind.

"There are so many universities in America that have many more options for art education than in my country. My dream schools are Otis College of Art and Design, CalArts and Chapman University. I want to pursue a degree in music arts, but also want to experience everything that the university has to offer. There are so many things that I cannot see and do here in Rwanda. After graduation I want to share what I've learned with other people all around the world, so that it can help improve their lives the way it did mine." – Emilia

She also has a few words of advice for anyone else struggling to pursue their education or other ambitions:

"First of all, the most important things in life are the ones that are the hardest to achieve. Second, it is okay to try and fail, but don't fail to try. Last but not least, challenges are faced by people that are fighters, so it is up to you to survive. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." – Emilia

Emilia is proof that with the right attitude and motivation, pretty much anything is possible. You can see Emilia's awesome musical talents below. She and her brother Mark wrote and recorded this song, "We Are Limitless" in just five hours!


If you're inspired by Emilia's story, click HERE to find out what International Women's Day is really about.