He became a child soldier at 6 and was shot in battle at 12. At 13, he started a new life.

There are epic stories, and then there are truly epic stories.

A video for Western Sydney University's "Unlimited" ad campaign profiles one such story — that of Deng Thiak Adut, one of the university's most extraordinary graduates.

In his case, as you'll learn, even the word "extraordinary" reeks of inadequacy because ... well, this guy's just indescribably persevering.


Deng Thiak Adut. Image from Western Sydney University/YouTube.

Today, Adut is an attorney (solicitor, in Aussie speak) who practices in Blacktown, a suburb west of Sydney. But his path to the courtroom was neither expected nor likely.

Three decades ago, he was just an ordinary kid growing up in Sudan. Then, as it always has, war changed that. Adut, then only 6 years old, was among tens of thousands of children conscripted to fight in the Second Sudanese Civil War.

Yes, this stuff is real. And Sudan still has a child soldier problem. Photo by Charles Lomodong/AFP/Getty Images.

The troop of boys marched for 33 days into Ethiopia, living off the land along the way, before going into battle against the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

"Kids. Going to war. You know they're not going to come back because they're going to put in everything they have. We were slaughtered," Adut said in an interview with "Models of Achievement," an Australian documentary series.

At the age of 12, Adut's life was nearly cut short when he was shot in the back during battle.

A stroke of luck brought a wounded Adut and his brother together. They'd both had enough. With his brother's help, he was smuggled away from the conflict into Kenya. In a corn sack. In the back of a truck.

Again, yes, this stuff is real. Image from Western Sydney University/YouTube.

The two brothers found relief at a United Nations compound. In time, with even more luck, they were sponsored by an Australian family and granted refuge in Blacktown.

Adut arrived in Australia in 1998 and finally had the chance to start rebuilding his life.

"My first impression was, 'Wow, I'm going to study. I'm going to finish university.' But how to get to university was not there," he said on "Models of Achievement." "I was not prepared from childhood to the age of 13 to start a formal education."

Image from Western Sydney University/YouTube.

In his first two years in Australia, he taught himself English. He supplemented his learning by chatting with locals at a nearby gas station. "This is where I learned early the good English and the bad words," he said, referring to "bikies," motorcycle gang members who didn't always offer the friendliest encounters.

Adut eventually earned his diploma and continued his virtuous march to keep learning.

In 2005, he enrolled in law school. "Studying [for a] law degree was hard. It was even harder because of my background," he said. But he didn't give up.

And on the night before his graduation, reflecting on how far he'd come, he cried until he physically couldn't anymore.

Image from Western Sydney University/YouTube.

"To be the first person to graduate with a law degree in my family, you can't call it a privilege. You don't give it a name." he said.

Now he wants to help make the journey to a life of safety, dignity, and free will easier for others in his community.

Adut is one of the only — maybe the only Sudanese lawyer in greater Western Sydney. He's been lauded for his work supporting Sudanese refugees both in court and in the community.

And he's a rare ally for a lot of folks in the region because, like in the U.S. and many other places, African Australians face uphill battles every day just because of their skin color — including in the justice system.

Hopefully, after taking in Adut's story, you can take a step back to consider the bigger picture surrounding this one man. Because to learn, to succeed, and to leave behind a legacy of your choosing shouldn't — for anyone — be something that's left to chance.

Watch Western Sydney University's inspiring profile of Deng Thiak Adut:

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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