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Akol Dok: Influencing the South Sudanese community one day at a time

Born in a war-torn country ravaged by famine and eternal conflict, Akol Dok, a senior at Iowa State studying political science, has risen up and taken charge of opportunities surrounding him in the United States.

After being born in South Sudan in 1995, Dok came to the United States in 2000 and grew up in Des Moines. He will graduate from Iowa State in December 2016.

“I have a deep passion for my people and where I come from, you know, I came here as an immigrant escaping a war and was given the opportunities to contribute back to my country,” Dok said. “These opportunities include getting an education [and] obtaining skills and trades to inspire myself and those around me to build a nation one day. And here at Iowa State I was very involved.”

During his first year at school, Dok was the president of Friley-Lincoln Residence Hall. He also was Mr. South Sudan in 2015, a member of the African Students Association, an invitee to the African American Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., and one of the first African students to run for Office of Vice President. He recently won Mr. Africa International.

At Mister Africa International, men of African origin gather to represent the various nations they come from, as well as their knowledge and development. The whole concept of the contest revolves mostly around fashion and youth empowerment.

“My reaction to winning Mister Africa was a great pleasure because I was able to represent South Sudan, because all that has been going on in my country has been negative and I got to bring a positive side of things,” Dok said.

Photo Courtesy Akol Dok

Dok has made numerous achievements in his short time as a college student and is making milestones for his community and for himself.

“For us to improve the standard of life in Africa and South Sudan, it has to come from the citizens; the government won’t do anything. It’s the citizens who have to change the country,” Dok said. “I want to just pave the way for many people, including those from my country and those from other countries and immigrants, to see that us here in America are privileged and we’ve got to make use of the opportunities that we have here."

Coming from Des Moines, Dok decided Iowa State was the best fit for him. Not only is it close to home, but it also consists of a connection to his background.

“This is a school that our founding father for South Sudan, John Garang, went to, so I want to carry on the legacy that he did for our people and follow behind him and inspire people the way he did. He set the standard for us as Africans; he was our leader for movement, for independence,” Dok said.

Aside from making changes to his community, Dok’s main goal is to inspire, prompt and motivate young adults to do what they set their minds to, especially in areas of transformation.

“My platform is to inspire young kids to go into fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and entrepreneurship," Dok said. "You know, encourage kids to innovate and create Africa because for us to have a strong country, a strong continent, there needs to be innovation. This innovation starts from the private sector, and I want to inspire young kids to overcome obstacles in their lives because there’s a lot of obstacles, especially in my home country of war and famine.”

Photo Courtesy Akol Dok

The drive and courage that it takes to make a change is exactly what Akol carries around with him. He promotes change and awakens the desire for a difference in the South Sudanese and African community. Dok wants to shed a more positive light on his community and contribute his talents toward those who can relate to his past struggles and experiences.

“I want other kids to be like, ‘Look I can do that.’ At the same time, I want South Sudanese and Africans who read this to be like, ‘Wow I can achieve my goals and I can overcome my objectives.’ You know, they saw me do it. And here, I’ve overcome objectives, I’ve jumped hoops, but one thing I’ve learned is to be resilient. Keep pushing and keep striving and put in the best of your effort in everything you do,” Dok said.

“Greatness is what you show, and I always say ‘Be great’,” Dok said. “Not become great, just be great, because ‘be’ is a current state."

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