Wise County played host Monday to James Kimonyo, ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the U.S., who visited the area to discuss educational opportunities between Rwanda and Southwest Virginia.
Kimonyo signed letters of intent with the University of Virginia's College at Wise, Mountain Empire Community College and the Napoleon Hill Foundation to find ways to connect Rwandan students with the local NASA DEVELOP program, according to a written statement.
The local DEVELOP program, which is based in Wise and conducts research using NASA satellites and other equipment, hosted Rwandan students last summer.
The letters express a desire for friendship and educational cooperation between the two colleges, Rwanda and the foundation.
He toured UVa-Wise and MECC and spoke at UVa-Wise about Rwandan education.
"We are so surprised and excited about what we've seen," Kimonyo said, according to the statement. "It gives me the impression that this is the perfect environment for our kids."
He talked about the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, and said that education has been one thing to help pull the country together after the killings. But, Kimonyo said, there are still gaps in education.
"We fill the gaps that we see," he said. "So we are so excited and looking forward to partnering with the two colleges to develop a program that will see Rwandan students come to the United States."
Kimonyo said the signing of the letters are "the beginning of what will be a long-term partnership with Wise County and the two institutions."