“Lost Boy” Shares Story with Sixth-graders

Valentino Mathiang share with South Middle School sixth-graders his incredible story of fleeing a civil war and traveling by foot.

On November 22, South Middle School sixth-graders hosted a Lost Boy from Sudan.  Valentino Mathiang shared with students his incredible story of fleeing a civil war and traveling by foot, with no shoes, from his village to Ethiopia and then to Kakuma in Kenya, Africa. Valentino was given the opportunity to live in the United States in 2004 and currently lives in Des Moines.

Valentino wore an American flag to show his appreciation for the work the United States has done to rescue and welcome him. After 25 years of living in the U.S., one year ago Valentino had the opportunity to visit Sudan. He talked about this emotional full-circle experience with students. He stressed to students how important it is for them to focus on their education.

“Use your time wisely at school and make use of your resources,” Valentino said.

The sixth-grade students first learned about the Lost Boys from a 60-minute video shared in Language Arts. When the video ended, they processed what happened to the Lost Boys through discussion, asking questions and drawing pictures of the experiences that stood out to them.  Students then listened to a reading of Brothers in Hope by Mary Williams and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan. They practiced putting themselves into the story by visualizing the events, thinking from the perspective of the boys, asking questions and discussing the theme.  Teachers also read to students, A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park, a book that shares a Lost Boy’s story.

One of our learning targets for this unit was identifying themes and supporting details. Students were able to accomplish this by making connections, creating meaning of the text and analyzing the development of ideas across the text. It is important to us not only to help kids practice reading learning targets, but to also increase students’ global understanding and compassion for others. 

“Our personal hope is that students are inspired to find a topic or an individual’s story they are passionate about and empower them to make a difference in their community just as people did for the Lost Boys,” Christina Schmitt, teacher at South Middle School, said.

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