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Good Press

I have been working like a demon for the last week or so to get ready for the Fifth Annual Sudanese Scholars Celebration. I was responsible for drafting talking points for our guest speaker, writing and assembling our programs, and putting together seven graduate tributes/biographies to read during the service.   I wrote about this ceremony last year, for anyone who needs background on what the heck I’m talking about, but this year I was much more intimately involved.

Along the way, I learned the basics of drafting a commencement address, that spell check doesn’t work when your brand new Microsoft Word installation has the default language set on German, and that it’s really, really, very, exceedingly difficult to interview someone over the phone when they (1) have a heavy Dinka accent; (2) are on their cell; and (3) are calling you from an aluminum plant.  Several similar calls really stretched my listening ability to the limit.

Anyway, today I am feeling tired but triumphant. Attendance was smaller than last year, but I think all the graduates felt special, 11 of our 13 graduates were present, and I didn’t massacre anyone’s name. When you consider that one of the names was Ayuen-Arok Deu Deng Abraham and that another graduate has the first name Pajieth, you will perhaps understand what an accomplishment that was!

But best of all, we got a press pick-up. Check us out on the local news.

The first person interviewed, Alier Mareet (The newscaster says “Ma-ret” but it’s “Ma-reet“), graduated #1 in his department at Indiana University Southeast. The second person, Kuol Deng, got a degree in public health at WKU and is already trying to figure out how to fund graduate school. He was offered one paid internship already, but as it was in New York City and paid only after the program was complete, he had to decline.  Meanwhile, his professors at WKU are begging him to come back. Also on screen was our chair and founder, Holly Holland, offering a tribute, board member Jon Henney, standing beside the row of graduates, and Louisville mayoral candidate Hal Heiner, suited and suitably mayoral looking front and center at the proceedings, who very graciously handed out certificates and delivered a heart-felt commencement address. I managed to be out of the frame in every scene, so you’ll have to take my word that I was there.

Among the more inspiring stories this year is the Ngor Deng, the first Sudanese from Louisville to earn a degree and now the proud holder of a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering, and Peter Thiep, who somehow managed to earn an associate’s degree while working full time to support, his mother, sister, and—wait for it— seventeen brothers back in Africa.

I’m extremely happy that our guys get to see themselves on TV and that our scrappy little all-volunteer organization got some respect. We all deserve it.

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