CUYAHOGA FALLS — Anyone wanting to support education and a good cause at the same time — and anyone needing a bag — should consider purchasing a bag from Shya Designs through the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.

Students in the school’s School of Business and Entrepreneurship sell bags that were crafted by women widowed due to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi by the Hutu in Rwanda.

"It started about five years ago, when a man connected with our school went to Rwanda," said Eric Ling, the director of SOBE. "He saw what these women were doing and was really impressed. He brought back a bunch of bags, came to the CVCA, and asked ‘Can we do this? Can we sell these?’"

What started with just a few bags netted just under $10,000 last year for the Rwandan widows, Ling said.

"We want to double it," said Justin Folger, a senior at the school.

Because of the school’s efforts, three more women have been employed, "who can now draw a paycheck and support her family," Ling said.

This program "allows these women to be self sufficient and send their children to school," Justin said.

"Because Shya Designs is completely student run, it allows us to have an incredible hands-on business learning experience, while dramatically impacting the lives of women halfway across the world," Justin said.

McKenna Miller, a senior and Twinsburg resident, was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer this year for Shya Designs. McKenna said as well as running an enterprise, the school "runs a business that helps others." She added that this program, plus other opportunities offered within SOBE, are preparing students for the business world. For example, McKenna said that last year the school participated in a marketing competition.

"We did marketing for a local business," McKenna said. "We handled their marketing and made a presentation."

Another opportunity offered through the school is Jterm, where students can participate in a one-week program that includes enrichment electives and travel opportunities. Justin said last year two students were able to travel to Rwanda and meet the women who make the bags the school helps sell.

One of those students, senior Jesse Oyster, said he went in January for eight days.

"It was one of the coolest experiences of the year," Jesse said. "Having that personal connection was really cool. We were taught about the Rwandan genocide, and we went to the genocide museum. That was very deep and impactful. Instead of being held by a longing for revenge, they have chosen to forgive each other and move forward as a country. Now it’s one of the safest in the world. In America, we hold grudges for the smallest things."

For details on Shya Designs, visit online, or call the school at 330-929-0575.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423,, or @AprilKHelms_RPC.