Friday, August 23, 2013

New Students, New Stories

This past Wednesday, over 400 new students arrived on campus at LETU. Cars were unloaded, rooms were organized, new friendships were forged, and each new student took the first steps into a new and exciting stage in his or her life.

New Student Orientation is always an exciting time here at LETU. It's a time for us to meet the people who will become the face of LeTourneau University over the next four years. They'll earn prestigious awards, compete in regional and national competitions, design and create innovative solutions to problems across the globe and impact countless lives both physically and spiritually.  It's a time for us to meet the leaders of tomorrow - our future mountain movers.

But it's also a time for our new students to learn that being a part of LETU is about more than classrooms and course sequences. Being a LeTourneau student is about developing both intellectually and spiritually, forging lasting friendships, learning to make an impact in the world in tangible ways and not being afraid to work hard and get your hands dirty.

To teach this lesson, each year our freshman students team up with faculty and staff members and spend a morning making an impact in the local community by completing service projects. This year our freshman students did everything from painting churches, to picking up trash, to sorting and organizing merchandise at a local mission's resale shop.

We're so excited for all the good our new students are already doing, but their stories at LETU are just beginning. We know that what they do over the next four years will have a global impact, and it's our privilege to watch them become the pilots, teachers, engineers, pastors, businesspeople, chemists and psychologists of tomorrow. We have the amazing opportunity to watch them use their God-given talents to shape their own stories and the story of our world, and we can't wait to see what they do next.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Incredible Students: Abraham Akech

My name is Abraham Atem Akech. I left my home country of South Sudan when I was just six-years-old. My journey away from South Sudan was very similar to that of the children of Israel when they left Egypt. The Sudanese government bombarded our villages on the ground and in the air when the Sudan civil war broke out in 1983 but I escaped and walked barefoot to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. This was not an easy feat. During my one-month trek from South Sudan to Ethiopia, I saw many of my friends eaten by wild animals like lions, hyenas, and leopards.

My four-year stay in Ethiopia was horrendous. When we first arrived at a refugee camp called Pinyudo, we faced disease. There were no hospitals in the camp nor any medical experts or nurses. Many of those who made the journey with me died of malnutrition, starvation and other tropical diseases. The saddest part for me was having to bury our deceased brothers, and at such a young age. This was very unusual because in our Dinka culture, youth are not allowed to perform burial. But we had to do it anyway; not burying the dead would have led to more diseases and death.

In the midst of all those near-death experiences, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and I was baptized in 1989. During my baptism I chose my given name, Abraham.

In 1991, the Ethiopian government was overthrown, and we left the country. Again, many of our brothers lost their lives while crossing the rivers on our way back to South Sudan. Upon our arrival, we settled at a place called Pochalla. It was the rainy season, and there was nothing to eat. For four months, we survived solely on the leaves of trees.

The Sudanese government was tracking us, so we left Pochalla in February of 1992, crossing the desert to Kenya. We traveled from South Sudan to Kenya, a journey now called "the journey of a thousand miles." We arrived in Kenya in July 1992 and settled in an arid district in the northern part of Kenya--a place called Kakuma Refugee Camp. In the Kakuma camp I continued my schooling until I immigrated to the United States in September 2001.

I came to America one week before September 11, 2001. When it happened, I told one of my American friends that the Arab extremists had followed us to America. If they hadn't, why did the terrorist attacks happen as soon as I had arrived? My friend told me that it was just a coincidence. Having lived in America less than three months, I entered the workforce, working my first job on the Mary Kay assembly line. I left that job after three months because of a long commute. Then I got my second job at T. J. Seafood Market where I worked about a year and left because of time conflicts with my school. I obtained my third job at Elliott's hardware store in Plano, and I worked there full-time while I  attended school full-time.

I finished my associate's of general science at Collin County Community College in the spring of 2007. After that, I transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas in the spring of 2008; and in the summer of 2010, I finished my bachelor degree, while double majoring in finance and business administration.

I currently work at Lennox Corporate Office in Richardson, Texas, and just finished my MBA here at LeTourneau University this past December. I'm blessed to be a part of the LeTourneau University family. It was God's plan that I make it to this great university. I know it was not by accident that I was accepted to this inspiring place of learning where I can grow spiritually at the same time. Overall, this has been the right place for me. I have been surrounded by people who want to spread God's message and who eagerly pursue knowledge. I'm proud to be a part of LeTourneau University, learning and growing spiritually with brothers and sisters with whom I have much in common.