Monday, June 11, 2012

From South Sudan to Yale

What an amazing story!  I've reached out to Paul to sent him $500 this afternoon (while he's on a full scholarship, he's otherwise destitute; if you want to support him as well, email me).  I'm also arranging for him to speak to students, first at schools near New Haven, and then NYC, Newark and Philadelphia (if you'd like to invite him to speak at your school, email me).

Paul Lorem epitomizes a blunt truth about the world: talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

Lorem, 21, is an orphan from a South Sudanese village with no electricity. His parents never went to school, and he grew up without adult supervision in a refugee camp. Now he's a freshman at Yale University.

All around the world, remarkable young men and women are on edge because today they finally hear of admissions decisions from Yale and a number of other highly competitive universities. So a word of encouragement: No one ever faced longer odds than Paul Lorem, and he made it.

"How I got to Yale was pure luck, combined with lots of people helping me," Lorem told me as we sat in a book-lined study on the Yale campus. "I had a lot of friends who maybe had almost the same ability as me, but, due to reasons I don't really understand, they just couldn't make it through. If there's one thing I wish, it's that they had more opportunity to get education."

Lorem's family comes from a line of cattle-herders in the southeastern part of South Sudan. The area is remote. Villagers live in thatch-roof huts, and there is no functioning school or health clinic. The nearest paved road is several days' walk away.

As Lorem was growing up, the region was engulfed in civil war, and, at age 5, he nearly died of tuberculosis. In hope of saving his life, his parents dropped him off at the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. They returned to their village and later died, and Lorem was raised in the camp by other refugee boys who were only a bit older.

Boys raising boys might seem a recipe for Lord-of-the-Flies chaos, but these teenagers forced Lorem to go to school, seeing education as an escalator to a better life. And Lorem began to soar.


From South Sudan to Yale

Published: March 28, 2012


Paul Lorem is a freshman at Yale University.

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