From refugees to Thomas College graduates

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 8:53 PM EDT
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WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) - Behind every diploma is a story.

When twins graduate from Thomas College this weekend, it’ll be another chapter in a storied journey.

”My parents were born in South Sudan Juba, and there was war there. So, because of that, they had to travel by foot to Uganda. They found home in a refugee camp, and that’s where my sister and I were born,” said Apiyo Charles.

At the age of 6 years old, Apiyo and Achen Charles came to America alongside 12 other siblings.

“We didn’t have a lot in Uganda, and I think our mindset was just like our parents worked so hard to bring us here that work on and try to make them proud,” said Achen.

Their father passed away a few years later leaving their mother to look after 20 children.

“She kind of did everything. She had four jobs. She was walking to each of the jobs because we didn’t have a car yet,” said Achen.

“She never seemed defeated, like she did it with a smile on her face because at the end of the day, she knew it was for a purpose. She was doing it for her kids, and every time I think of that, it just blows my mind because she worked so hard, and I don’t know how she never complains,” said Apiyo.

“We’re here for a reason. Anyway, we can help her out. We’re gonna try,” said Achen.

And they had each other’s back through it all.

“We’re always like you have to do your homework to get like an A. We’re always like pushing each other,” said Achen.

It took a lot of sleepless nights and sacrifice, but both are graduating from a four-year university in just three years.

“We’re gonna take every single advantage we can and use it so that we can set ourselves up and our family for financial freedom in the future. And hopefully, we’re able to bring some of our siblings from Uganda to here eventually,” said Apiyo.

Both are majoring in psychology with the goal of not just going for their masters, but a Ph.D as well.

“To see that I can have an impact on someone’s life, just by my words is like, it’s really like the best feeling ever,” said Apiyo.

While this certainly isn’t the end of their journey, it’s a milestone well worth celebrating.