r By Amy Chandler for My Story Mattes
Occasionally when we do an interview with a student what they choose to share changes our hearts forever. My Story Matters had the opportunity to interview an incredible young man whose story inspired us and we wanted to share it with you. Due to the sensitivity and security of the story, we have had to change his name.
As I sat across from Joshua I quickly became mesmerized as the details of his story emerged. At age 6, he was living inside a community near Turkey. The area was being protected by US soldiers. The soldiers were also spending time teaching the children English. Joshua picked up on the language quickly and was one of the few young students who could communicate fluently in English. Frequently local militant groups would begin to advance to their community with the intent to do harm, Joshua was immediately summoned to alert the troops. He would run and tell the US Soldiers what he knew. They would advance and quickly thwart the militants from having any success in overtaking their community.
The militant group realized there had to be an informant. It is not known how they learned it was Joshua, but they knew. One day Joshua and his mother went into town to get some much-needed supplies. When they returned they found their entire family had been slaughtered by the militant group, father, grandmother, aunts, cousins; everyone except Joshua’s two severely disabled brothers. In their culture having a disability was a disgrace and so the militants had purposely left them with no one but the two who would make it the hardest for them to survive with.
Joshua had to wipe away several tears as he shared this part of his story with me. So many horrible things he witnessed and pain he experienced. Joshua and his mother quickly took his two brothers and fled on foot with just a few essentials. They found refuge in a cave in Turkey. They lived there for the next 10 years in isolation. One of the essentials Joshua took with him was an iPhone and a solar charger. During the day he would place the charger in the sun and at night he would stay awake watching tutorials on YouTube. He taught himself, English, Math, Science, and more.
In some internet searches, he learned of a way to enter the Refugee placement program and come to America. After much consideration, they risked everything and left their safety in the cave and traveled to the town where they could submit their paperwork. They were chosen to come to America. Once they arrived they learned they would be sent to Salt Lake City. That’s where we met Joshua.
Often when refugees arrive they begin classes to learn to read, write, and speak English. They struggle in many of the subjects as they try to catch up from years of little education. Educators quickly became puzzled by Joshua. He would hardly talk, but he was getting perfect scores on every worksheet they gave him. He could read and write English fluently. He mastered any math assignment they gave him. After just being here 6 months they decided to give him the ACT. This young man who was self-educated on YouTube in a cave while helping care for his two brothers scored a 34 on his ACT on the first try.
His brothers have been receiving excellent care and advancing as well. I sat in awe as I listened to so many of the details, and heard his dreams for the future. I have no doubts this young man will use his gifts and talents to create solutions to help humanity, he already has. I desperately wanted to meet with his mother and hear her story, what a life of courage, bravery, and hope she created for her children. What obstacles do you see that are stopping you from creating the story you want? Do you look for several solutions for change or do you find yourself imprisoned to no way out? Take courage from Joshua and choose to be brave and create new opportunities today!