Gabriel Wal is not your average college graduate.
As one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, he has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the way. At the age of 12, he and many others fled the civil war that had taken their families. They escaped Sudan by walking for 60 days – day and night – across the Saharan Desert. Not everyone survived the journey.
Although he did not have a family while he was growing up, Wal had a specific desire that kept him going. “I’ve been on my own my whole life and making my own decisions,” he said. “My goal was to get an education.”
Wal eventually made it to the United States, arriving in New York on the fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001. After a few weeks, he was relocated to the Fort Worth area. Then Catholic Charities stepped in and began teaching English and U.S. culture to the refugees.
Six years ago, Wal went to work for Catholic Charities and plans to continue with them after graduation to help immigrants. He has earned a business degree and is participating in fall commencement.
“I like what Catholic Charities does for the community. They are really wonderful people,” he said.
Wal’s education has come in many forms. His early classes were held under a tree with no books, blackboards or traditional writing tools. “We used to write on the floor as a notebook, and use a carton as a blackboard,” he said.
When he began his college career in the United States, he attended TCC and then transferred to Texas Wesleyan University. He received financial support through Christ Chapel and Texas Wesleyan trustees, as well as financial aid through the university.
“Texas Wesleyan University, Christ Chapel, and Catholic Charities have all had a big impact on my life,” Wal said. “There are also good individuals who have had a great impact on my life, such as the Sudanese community, friends, and relatives. All of these people did phenomenal things.”
In 2008, he got married and now has a family of his own. Wal said he is excited about graduation and looks forward to a happy future.
“I will see what is in God’s plan for me,” he said. “I’m hoping to go back to school if I have the opportunity.”