Graduation from North Park Universtiy
12/16/05

Gabriel Akoon
graduated from
North Park University
on December 16, 2005.
He is the first of the
Lost Boys of Sudan in Chicago
to earn a Bachelors degree.
He majored in Business and Economics.

Congtratulations!

You are truly an inspiring and admirable role model.

 

photo by Kuek Garang


          Reflecting back to when I first came to Chicago on June 21, 2001, it was a beautiful summer day. While driving into the city from the airport, I was amazed by the highway system and the number of vehicles on the road. It was as if I had stepped into another universe, which is true considering the difference between Chicago and the refugee camps I was used to. While we were heading to our first apartment in America, we passed by North Park University and a voice in me said that one day I would be able to enroll in that school. I did not share my thoughts with anyone because they were only an instinct. That summer, I was diligent in wanting to know about the possibility of being able to attend school in the fall. Many friends were willing to help me with what I needed to do to achieve that end. I went to St. Augustine College to try for a placement examination, since I had completed High School when I was in Kenya. I was able to do very well to start regular college classes. I was very excited. I began school at St. Augustine in the fall of 2001. I did very well in my first semester so I decided to apply to North Park University. I got accepted and began classes the following semester. When I was at North Park, I realized that the instinct I had in my first day in Chicago had come true; I was very thankful but I knew the real work lies ahead.

          My years at North Park University were memorable; I came in contact with great friends and bright professors who had a lasting impact on my future. With the hunger and thirst I have for knowledge, I know getting my Bachelors Degree was one of my happiest days but I believe it only was a stepping stone in the direction I plan my life to lead. Being the first Lost Boy in Chicago to graduate with a Bachelors Degree is an honor I cherish because it makes a statement. Not only about me but about Lost Boys in Chicago and elsewhere, that all we need is an opportunity. We have the capacity like regular Americans despite the fact of what we when through in the refugee camps. Chicago has been great for us because it provides us a place to work to support ourselves and a caring community that is eager to help. My four years of school hasn't been easy but when you see the light through the tunnel, you keep your eyes on it.

          Along the way, I have met great friends who helped me achieve my goals. Grace Covenant Church has been like a family to me because of their friendship and support. CALBOS was able to pay for some of my tuition and relieve me of the stress of not knowing if I would be able to attend school the next semester. I know I am the first to graduate with a Bachelors Degree but certainly will not be the last. I long for the day when we all look back and reflect on our previous lives with pride of accomplishment.

          My next step is to go to law school, which I am planning to do next year if possible. I am sitting for the LSAT on February 4, 2006; after that who knows but the focus is on the goal. If I worry myself now about the possibility of the unknown, especially the financial part, I will loose focus. This is to let my brothers and sisters know that we can do it. Looking forward should be the theme, not backward. We need to make ourselves comfortable where we live and make it our second home. Southern Sudan needs people who will bring change; let's all aspire to be those people. When we came here, we knew America was a land of opportunity but that opportunity does not find you, you need to seek it.

God bless.
Gabriel Akoon

 

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Unless otherwise specified, all photos and graphics are original work by Barbara Rose
written permission required to use them.

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