Dau Jok

OST Enrichment Coach

Don’t call Dau Jok a fish. Call him Second Lieutenant. Dau’s story is one of experiences and calls to service that cause many to do a double-take.

On a cold day in December –  in fact, it was December 9, 2003 – Dau arrived in Des Moines, Iowa, with his mother, uncle, two brothers, and sister. Seven-thousand miles from his motherland of Sudan, Dau was fascinated by his new home. He remembers smelling and tasting a white substance that miraculously fell from the skies that winter. Iowa was colder and the grass was white, so it seemed, but the buildings didn’t look anything like the New York skylines he had come to believe were America.

Dau struggled to adapt culturally and linguistically to the United States, but found solace in sports, especially basketball, earning him a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania. He soon found that life in the Ivy League was almost as difficult as immigrating to a new country.

The Ivy League—in all its prestige—was competitive, rigorous, and, at times, ruthless. Dau was born and raised in a place where communal living superseded individualism, and sharing was the rule, not the exception. At Penn, Dau had a hard time understanding how one could eat without inviting others or owing friends money for buying a meal. But Dau forged his own path, living the mantra that life was more than a zero-sum game; its essence is in the common decency with which people treat one another.

Dau found success in this new world. He was a two-time co-captain of the men’s basketball team and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and minor in African Studies. He even went on to receive his Masters of Science in Global Leadership from Goldsmiths, University of London.

But that’s not all, folks! Dau works full time for SPPG as an out-of-school time Enrichment Coach. He also serves as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserves. He started his own nonprofit, the Dut Jok Youth Foundation, named after his father, that has reached more than 2,100 youth in the United States, Uganda, and South Sudan through recreational sports, education, and leadership training. And, because he is determined to never be bored, he is also pursuing his Doctorate in Education from Drake University.

So don’t call Dau a fish out of water, even though he’s a long way from his native land of Sudan. Call him a leader. He’s clearly making his own way in a new world by giving back to his adopted country and youth here and across the world.