From an early age, Rodger Chinhangue followed his father around his rural South African community as he fixed neighbors’ plumbing and electrical issues. He developed a love of working with his hands and problem solving, and he later accompanied his father to his job to take on tasks himself.
Even so, growing up in the Nkomazi region of South Africa wasn’t easy. Coming from a Mozambican immigrant family, he remembers facing discrimination and xenophobia, “Many people said foreigners are not allowed to have proper education.” But Rodger didn’t let that distract him from his school work or from his passions, “I focused myself on education and left the challenges we faced in our community, like being teased about being a foreigner.”
In grade 8, Rodger was selected for Imagine Scholar. As part of the only after-school program in the region dedicated to harnessing the potential of underserved youth, he utilized the resources and mentorship to become an empowered community leader. “Ever since I’ve come to Imagine Scholar, I’ve realized what life is. I was a smart kid but I didn’t know how to think for myself and how to think for the future. Imagine Scholar gave me a railway on which to travel and guidance on how to shape my life.”
During his time at Imagine Scholar, Rodger captained a team of students in building a battery-powered vehicle and led them to victory at the provincial Electric Vehicle competition
. He independently did the plumbing and electrical work for a new building on the program’s campus, and furthermore, championed an effort
to reduce organizational operating costs by bringing solar power energy to Imagine Scholar. Additionally, Rodger and two other Imagine Scholars were the first students from the region to be selected to attend the Yale Young Global Scholars Program
In mid-2016, Rodger was awarded a full scholarship to attend the United World College in Armenia. He is currently studying in the two-year International Baccalaureate program at their campus in Dilijan. He is actively involved in drama, swimming and community service – all while learning the Armenian language.
Rodger hopes his time at UWC Dilijan will enable him to secure a scholarship to study engineering at university. He sees renewable energy as an important emerging field and one that could help developing communities like his own. He plans to mentor aspiring engineers from rural schools in South Africa and generate innovative energy solutions for under-resourced areas.