Ngor Biar Deng
The first of the Lost Boys in Louisville to earn a college degree and one of the first in the nation to reach that milestone, Ngor Biar Deng was a trailblazer from the very start. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Louisville in 2006 and a second bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 2009. Now he has become one of only two Sudanese Americans from this area to earn a graduate degree, having recently received a master’s in engineering in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville’s Speed Scientific School along with a certificate in environmental engineering.
Along the way he picked up a slew of scholarships and academic honors, including a recent recognition from the National Society of Black Engineers for his high grade point average. Last year he also received the D.A. Richards/G.E. Memorial Scholarship in recognition of his academic attainment and research aptitude. In addition, Ngor received a prestigious Graduate Student Assistantship from the University of Louisville, which involved managing a tutoring program for students in math and science.
Ngor makes everything look so easy that people often forget how much he has struggled to get to this point. When he came to the United States in 2001, he had only a 9thgrade education. Nevertheless, he studied and quickly passed the high school equivalency exam so he could attend community college.
When he entered the University of Louisville, he felt lost and overwhelmed, particularly in classes outside his strengths of math and science. He reached out to mentors and friends, accepted tutoring, and kept accelerating toward his dreams. When a family emergency diverted him from plans to attend medical school, he moved to Dallas, took a co-op position in engineering, and came up with an alternate career in chemical engineering. In addition to all of his academic work, Ngor has appeared on national television, represented the Sudanese Refugee Education Fund at numerous speaking engagements around the community, and written more thank you letters to donors than we can count.
Pajieth Ayiel Bul
All the way back in high school in the Kakuma Refugee camp, friends couldn’t help noticing that Pajieth Ayiel Bul’s grades in math and science were usually the highest in the group. He was simply a natural. And that is how someone who only arrived in the United States in May 2003, making him among the last of the Sudanese to arrive here, finds himself earning a bachelor’s degree six-and-a-half short years later.
Two months after making Louisville home, Pajieth was busy working full time at an aluminum company and studying for his GED. By January 2004, he had passed his GED and begun taking classes at Jefferson Community College.
Two years on he had transferred to the University of Louisville and was still working full time, now at UPS. It was only in January 2007 that Pajieth allowed himself to cut back on his work hours to focus on school. Even for a natural like him, upper-level courses in physical and analytical chemistry were hard. Pajieth prevailed with with a high GPA in a tough subject. We are exceedingly proud to honor Pajieth Ayiel Bul for his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from the University of Louisville.
We’d also like to note that this is something of a family affair, as Pajieth’s brother graduated recently from a university in Washington state.
People often marvel at the dedication that Sudanese Americans have shown for higher education. And it’s certainly true that all of those here have set an important standard for what immigrants can accomplish in their adopted country. But what many people may not know is that the Lost Boys have not only sacrificed to put themselves through school, they have also sent money back to Africa for years so that their relatives could become educated too.
No one represents that heroic effort better than Chol Nhial Chol. Last month, Chol earned a bachelor’s degree in business with a finance concentration from Indiana University-Southeast. He did so while working full time, first at Cardinal Aluminum and then for the last three years at Zappos national shoe distribution center in Bullitt County. Chol’s achievements are remarkable, considering that when he came to the United States in 2001, he had only completed the 8th grade in refugee camp schools.
In less than two years he had completed the requirements for his GED and enrolled in community college. From there he moved to the University of Louisville and eventually to IUS. All the while, Chol has been the only means of financial support for his entire extended family back in Africa. He has supported his mother and father and four siblings in Sudan. In addition, he has paid to send a brother and two cousins through private high school in Uganda. And now he is paying to send one of his cousins to college in Uganda.
That’s an incredible amount of weight on one person’s shoulders, even someone as big as Chol. We are immensely proud of Chol’s magnificent accomplishments, both in the classroom and in the wider world.
Kuol Kuai Deng
When Kuol Kuai Deng was a young boy living in refugee camps in Ethiopia, he watched helplessly as many of his young friends succumbed to ailments like measels and dehydration. Even then he somehow understood that it shouldn’t be that way—that with more doctors, better food, clean water, and basic supplies, those sick boys would be well.
That innate understanding fueled an interest in public health, and Kuol‘s own strength and resilience nursed that dream during his time at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, on his long journey to Louisville, Kentucky, and through years of working full time at University Hospital while simultaneously taking English classes at JCC and supporting three brothers.
When it came time to make his dream of a public health degree a reality, Kuol’s chosen major led him to Western Kentucky University. He was the first of Louisville’s Lost Boys to go to WKU, and on the eve of his first day there he confessed a case of nerves to his friend and the then director of the Sudanese Education Refugee Fund, Holly Holland. “How will I make friends?” he plaintively asked her.
That gave Holly a case of nerves, too. But then, two short months later, she visited him on campus and found herself reassured by the constant interruptions of “Hello, K!” coming from passersby everywhere they went. Everyone knew Kuol: fellow students, faculty, even the University President.
Anyone would be impressed by the intelligence that allowed Kuol to make the dean’s list for three semesters. But people must also be drawn to his wisdom. Before leaving Kenya, Kuol learned that his father had lost six members of his family, including his wife, in an attack on their village. Far away in Kakuma, Kuol worried about his dad and recorded taped messages of encouragement for him. He urged his father to find the strength in his heart to look ahead, re-marry, and rebuild his family and life.
We know that Kuol’s combination of grit and understanding will take him far. It gives our organization great pleasure to recognize Kuol Deng for his bachelor’s of science in public health.
“Abraham” Deng Goch Deng
When “Abraham” Deng Goch Deng thought he was called to the Catholic priesthood, he moved from Louisville, Kentucky to Epworth, Iowa to attend Divine Word Seminary. A college education was also in his plans, but first he had to pass the high school equivalency exam. He failed the English literature section seven times before he got the score he needed. Most people would have quit from discouragement, but Abraham kept going.
He studied three years at Divine Word and in 2008 earned an associate’s degree in cross-cultural studies. He also provided many hours of volunteer service to groups assisting children, disabled adults, and the elderly. After realizing that he no longer wanted to become a priest, Abraham transferred to the University of Dubuque to complete his education.
Last December, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a concentration in criminal justice and religion and a minor in philosophy. He graduated with honors, Magna Cum Laude, with a 3.8 cumulative grade point average. As part of his education, Abraham served an internship with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office in Louisville, earning praise from his supervisors for his strong work ethic and skills. A few months after graduation, Abraham returned to Louisville and quickly secured a full-time job in his field as a mental health worker at Our Lady of Peace Hospital.
Abraham received many scholarships from the Sudanese Refugee Education Fund. Though he was usually far from home, Abraham always fulfilled his service requirement by writing long and thoughtful thank you letters to his benefactors. It is with deep pride and appreciation that we recognize his accomplishments.
Whenever the Sudanese Refugee Education Fund had to report the grade point average of scholarship recipients to our donors, we were always very thankful that Alier Mareet was part of the group. He earned so many As in college, first at Jefferson Community College and then at Indiana University-Southeast, that the SREF board members did a double take whenever we saw the occasional B sneak onto his transcript. In May, he graduated from IUS with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a double major in criminology, carrying a 3.8 cumulative grade point average with him. In other words, he was just two-tenths of one percent away from being perfect throughout his college career. He was on the Dean’s List or Chancellor’s List every semester. And at the graduation ceremony at IUS on May 15, he was named the most outstanding student in his department, graduating with distinction.
Alier has worked full time at Norton Hospital throughout college and supported himself as well as multiple family members back in Africa. Nevertheless, he managed to save enough money to bring his wife, Yar, and son, Kuereng, to Louisville last year. In fall 2010 they welcomed a second child into their family. Alier’s beautifully written thank you notes have been well received by many donors to the Sudanese Refugee Education Fund, and we are very proud to recognize his achievements.
“His playing style reflects the authority of a field general and warrior,” the writer reflected.
While attending Atherton, Kennedy was named the best soccer player in the western half of Kentucky and earned an athletic scholarship to Xavier University in Cincinnati. He played Division I soccer for four years, which involved the significant challenge of balancing practice schedules, athletic conditioning, travel, and games with the academic requirements of a top university. Perhaps no one should be surprised that this son of a tribal chief in Sudan managed everything so well.
On May 15, Kennedy earned a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in computer information systems. Before he had even completed his coursework, he had obtained a full-time job in his field. He was recently hired as a business intelligence consultant for a company called Sogeti. We are so proud to recognize him.
Ayuen-Arok Deu Deng
Much like Kuol Deng, Ayuen-Arok Deu Deng’s interest in medicine began amid tragedy in refugee camps. At Kakuma, Ayuen-Arok took in the amount of suffering and the dearth of supplies and dreamed of a job in medicine where he could make a difference.
Wasting no time, Ayuen-Arok launched his career at Kakuma, where he functioned as an unofficial medic. He learned basic first-aid techniques and got supplies from a friend’s father, soon enough becoming the go-to person for on-the-field football injuries.
When he learned he’d be coming to the United States, Ayuen-Arok dreamed of finishing school and fulfilling his destiny. That dream was deferred for seven long years while he took ESL classes and worked full-time to put three siblings through private high school in Kenya.
Finally, in 2008, he began classes in clinical and medical assistance at Daymar College, a program he selected because it offered the fastest path to a job in direct patient care. Today Ayuen-Arok celebrates this degree even as he prepares to go back to school for his next one, a bachelor’s in nursing that will allow him to work in the emergency room of a hospital or other trauma settings where the fast pace matches his prodigious energy.
We have no doubt that Ayuen-Arok has found his calling, and we are thrilled to celebrate this major milestone with him.
Yol Goch Aciek
Yol Goch Aciek arrived in Louisville in August of 2001 in a group of six. From the time he arrived in America to now, this group has stayed together to support one another, even moving into their very own house together in March of 2009.
From the beginning, Yol has been the unofficial counselor of the group and commanded much respect. Meanwhile, even as his Louisville household relied on him to help navigate their way in a new country, Yol has worked full time as a resident monitor at a Louisville halfway house to support his mother, sister, and three nephews in Africa. Today his family also includes a wife and two children in Uganda.
It’s an amazing amount of responsibility for someone who is still in school. The secret to his success may be found in a proverb Yol himself quoted in a thank you note to one our organization’s donors: “When a fly sits on a cup full of water, it looks like the ocean to him, and when an elephant sees the water, it looks like a tiny grain of sand.”
Yol is clearly the elephant, seeing every challenge as something small enough to overcome.
Yol has already begun work on his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and political science at the University of Louisville, and today we are excited to acknowledge his associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from Jefferson Community College.
Biong Arop Biong
Biong Arop Biong earned an associate’s degree from National College of Business & Technology and was recognized at our May 2010 ceremony. A biography of Biong is not available at this time.
Benjamin Garang Lual
He recognized how important computers were when he started using them, and so he chose computer applications as his field of study once he sat for his GED and was ready to begin work towards a degree.
He knew that National College, with its quarter-based schedule that allowed him time to travel home and visit the mother, sister, and father he supports in Sudan, was the right fit for him. And best of all, he knows that going back to school for a bachelor’s degree at Sullivan University will be a good thing that will allow him to simultaneously earn a living in technical support and also bring much-needed computer skills and training to his homeland.
We are proud to recognize Benjamin Lual for his associate’s degree in computer applications from National College of Business and Technology.
When Mawut Mach came to Louisville in September, 2003, he quickly learned that being among the last to arrive from Sudan could be lonely. While he worked hard to learn how to shop, do laundry, and drive with the help of congregants from Christ Church United Methodist, his friends—those he had assumed would show him the way—were getting up as early as 4:00 a.m. to go to work.
So Mawut pressed on alone, completing his ESL classes in one and a half years while working first as a grader at Anderson Wood Factory and later at Norton Hospital to supporting his mother, sister, and brother in Sudan. In 2005, Mawut began his coursework in criminal justice at Jefferson Community College, choosing this topic with the hope that studying the nature of law and justice could ultimately help him fight injustice here and abroad. We are proud to recognize Mawut for the associate’s degree in criminal justice he completed in August of 2009, and we are extremely pleased to announce that he is on track to earn his bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville in the very near future.
Peter Thiep earned an associate’s degree in computer applications from National College of Business & Technology and plans to continue his education at Sullivan University, where he intends to complete a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He hopes to become a youth treatment counselor, a police officer, or serve some other role in social services.
In the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, Peter served as Head Boy of 1,450 Lost Boys, Information Secretary General of four states of Barh el Ghazel youthful, and was one of the founders of Pakok Dimma Sudanese Youth Association (PDSYA) with headquarters in Dallas, Texas.
Currently he serves as Secretary General of the Sudanese community in Louisville and works as a welder and translator for Jeffboat, a Southern Indiana shipyard.
Peter has a wife, Asunta Madut, and they have had three daughters: Adau, Athiep, and Ading. In addition, Peter is the sole means of support for his mother, sister, and 17 brothers back in Africa. Two of those 17 brothers are now in high school, thanks to Peter’s financial support.