A new life in the U.S., with an assist from WWU

“If i will ensure it is, I believe anyone can ensure it is too,” Benane Awejok Akurkuch ‘06 said. “No matter the odds.” 

Akurkuch today life a calm, effective life in america, providing being a human resources director for Christian Horizons. But the journey the Sudanese native took getting where she is these days was not calm. And William Woods played a job inside her success.

Akurkuch’s journey began like a refugee in war-torn Sudan (present day Southern Sudan, Africa) where she viewed lots of her family members and friends massacred during the genocide. Akurkuch and her mama tried to seek asylum by going from a refugee camp to another. She lived-in different refugee camps in several nations, including two various camps in Ethiopia, two in Kenya and about a year wandering in the wilderness while trying to discover a safe harbor from age three to about age 12. All her journeys were done by walking, with no footwear, maps and little food. the woman mommy along with her took their travels during nighttime, while hiding by day.

“i did son’t know very well what it absolutely was like to be a child. We never ever attended college, and didn’t know very well what it was like to have family members, normal life, a residential district, or the worth of life generally,” Akurkuch stated. “Life developing up in my situation in Africa wasn’t bliss.”

The woman family in the course of time escaped from Africa, and emigrated towards united states of america. The very first time in her life, Akurkuch believed physically safe. But a whole new group of difficulties remained in her brand-new nation.

Finding a formal knowledge at 12

Akurkuch started school without knowing a solitary word of English, and there was clearly no ESL (English as 2nd Language) into the school at age 12. 

“I was most likely the first foreigner that they had without a single word-of English,” said Akurkuch about her new elementary school in West Haven, Connecticut. 

The institution was polite and encouraging as they assigned the lady a counselor plus tutor whom taught Akurkuch how to speak and review English. She was only within college for semester, however it made a mark and set this course and course on her behalf life in U.S. Her family members relocated to Kansas City, Missouri, which would function as a safe location for Akurkuch and her family to live in addition to discovering a church family just who offered support. 

Running turned into a significant aspect in Akurkuch’s while settling into life in america. She began running as a freshman in twelfth grade to clear the woman brain. X-country taught her tenacity and also to navigate the terrains and obstacles of life. She’d eventually receive a x-country and track-and-field scholarship to William Penn University.

 “i recall telling my mentor that I don’t need a cent to my name no one in my family ever made it to twelfth grade or college,” Akurkuch stated. “She was encouraging through coaching and teaching to organize myself for the next degree and also to not let my last figure out my future.”

the woman senior school running mentor Waunita Small made a mark in her own life. Small informed Akurkuch that she could obtain a grant for college if she continued increasing in working and keeping good grades during the woman freshman year. Akurkuch centered on keeping good grades and improving the woman operating abilities to ensure she attained a grant for university.

“The news of getting a scholarship had been surprising to me –  that some body would purchase my college just for doing the thing I enjoy doing whether it was sport or academics,” Akurkuch said. “The competition is certainly not necessarily into quick plus the quick but rather toward determined and concentrated mind. Think of the final perhaps not the commencement and adjust your speed appropriately.”

Coming to William Woods University

Akurkuch transferred to William Woods University on her behalf senior year. WWU did not provide cross-country or track until 2004, but once the working program was established, she immediately transferred to The Woods in 2005.

“WWU was to my listing appropriate out of twelfth grade,” Akurkuch stated. “Being at WWU taught me how to prepare to be always a professional not only in my opted for profession additionally in life. I learned how to create professional relationships and to reside life on purpose.”

Akurkuch found wonderful men and women both in pupil human anatomy and professors. Through Professor Brenda Popp’s courses, she remembered having to work extremely hard and spend lots of time within the collection. She learned how to be responsible and accountable to her choices and activities. Popp couldn’t take excuses, and students needed to turn-in the project ahead of the course began.

Akurkuch had been Popp’s advisee in 2005-06 plus pupil in several of Popp’s business classes. During one of their particular first advising sessions, Popp asked Akurkuch in which she had been from. 

“She crisply responded Kansas City,” Popp said. “reading a global accent, I asked once more, and she responded having an even crisper tone– Kansas City.  I was somewhat puzzled because I had friends from various African countries and believed the woman accent had been undoubtedly from that continent.”

In Popp’s courses, Popp remembered that Akurkuch had been reserved along with a sharp advantage to course answers. So she invited Stanford and Ellen Nyatanga to talk to her International Business course about Robert Mugabe and also the Zimbabwe governmental and financial crisis. Stanford stepped straight to Akurkuch and called the lady his African sibling and provided her a big hug following the presentation.

“From hearing about the Nyatanga’s hardships and their hugs, she thawed,” Popp stated. “Shortly next presentation, she ended by my workplace and opened up about the horrific occasions she had experienced into the Sudan Wars.”

picture of Benane Awejok Akurkuch in Sudanese gown

Akurkuch brought Popp a picture of the girl in the woman tribal Sudanese gown on a single stop by at Popp’s office.  At the time before her graduation, Akurkuch sat in Popp’s workplace sufficient reason for tears moving down the woman face, a memory that Popp has not forgotten.

“Benane said, ‘I never ever thought that the tiny woman going from refugee camp to refugee camp would ever before go throughout the phase of WWU,’” Popp stated. 

Both would drop touch for decades after graduation, until Popp got an email from Akurkuch through LinkedIn in 2019.

“I happened to be overjoyed to hear from the girl,” Popp stated. “This time is was me personally with rips rolling down my face, just hearing from her and once you understand she ended up being succeeding. I Was Thinking of this lady and stressed that life would toss the girl much more troubles and she would n’t have the security net to withstand all of them.”

But when WWU challenged Akurkuch in a positive direction regarding academics through Popp’s classes, it set the girl up for success in the us plus in life. She remembers particularly one event, when she spent 10 hours in collection during finals week studying specifically for business finance last, an exercise that helped the lady to learn how to believe critically, use her time wisely, also to be ready for the duty in front of you. 

“If only I happened to be indeed there for the whole four years, but Im grateful when it comes to 12 months and one half I was at WWU because I became extremely challenged within a positive direction in terms of academics,” Akurkuch said.

And more than a decade after William Woods assisted transform a lady who survived a childhood being shuttled between refugee camps amongst a continuous municipal war in an African country in to a confident, effective individual, Akurkuch is beholden to all or any which aided the girl on the way.

 “Im thankful for anyone people who i’ve satisfied during my life thus far which aided propelled me beyond my circumstances,” Akurkuch stated. “My journey taught myself simple tips to be flexible and adaptable to whatever environment I am in and expect top. I’m Able To be courageous to overcome any obstacle that I may encounter.”