Saturday, April 30, 2011

Awesome Students

A few days ago I saw a face I haven’t seen in months and wondered if I would ever see again: Bak. Bak is a sometimes student and always friend. He’s Sudanese, one of the famous Lost Boys who trekked through Sudan to Kenya to survive conscription or eradication by the Khartoum government. I also learned he was one of the last Lost Boys to come to the US and, very cool, that he just been elected to a position of leadership among the Sudanese people in the US. I wish I could remember the title of the organization, but whatever the title, Bak’s title is President now. He’ll lead this organization for the better part of the next two years.

He came into the Writing Center the other day and asked me to give a speech he was giving a final once over. I did and then we had some time to catch up. Turns out he had to stop school because of lack of funds, but managed to save up enough to return (on top of providing for himself and sending money back home, which nearly all Sudanese students do). I’ll never forget the Sudanese conference I was invited to—what, a year ago?—and how Bak sat by me and paraphrased the revolutionary music performed at the event (very reggae-esque). He said he’s taking summer classes, and so I really hope I’ll get to see him this summer.

It’s pretty remarkable. Five years ago when I first starting working at SLCC’s Writing Center, I met Abraham, one of the more senior Sudanese Lost Boys. He has since gone on to serve in a presidential position (probably the same one Bak holds now), and after that, to serve as something of an ex-patriot Sudanese congressman, as I understand it. He’s now a big deal in the Sudanese community here in the west. Then, between these two, I met Dut. He also served a president of the Sudanese organization (which involves travel across the US, so this isn’t a small gig by any means). Currently, Dut is still one of my students, and he just started a charitable organization here at SLCC that helps give poor Sudanese (and likely others) educational opportunities they otherwise could never afford—something Dut did out of his own pocket for a younger man back in Sudan, who is about to graduate on Dut’s contribution. Yeah, pretty awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

One last student to mention: his name is Tristan, and he is one of the many fantastic kids I met at Washington Elementary in Salt Lake today. I had the pleasure to take part in a charitable assembly there this morning for the Book for Every Kid program, a local program designed to get every student in the school a free book. Four other fine authors and friends contributed as well: Jennifer Nielsen , Kristen Landon, Dene Low, and Christine Graham. We all did a little presentation, about ten or fifteen minutes each, for k-6 (I believe, maybe the oldest grades were 5th).

Anyway, after the presentation I talked to a few of the students—those who were particularly interested in dragons, which, by the way, is a sign of brilliance—and Tristan let me have this cool drawing he did. I promise to share it with the world. From what I can tell, the huge dragon is fighting a volcano, which has to be a good fight. If anything can beat a dragon, it has to be a volcano. Or a cow. Certainly not a sword. Those at the assembly will know what I’m talking about.

Thanks for the drawing, Tristan. I hope you enjoy seeing it published on the Internet.

There are a lot of interesting and inspiring people out there. A few of them have been students of mine, and that is incredible to me. It shows how fortunate I am and have been, and does nothing to even imply any of it is deserved.

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