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From cow-dung hut to Harvard

Aspen Times Staff Report

Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton is a Samburu (Maasai) tribesman raised in a traditional nomadic community in Kenya who made his way to an elite boarding school and then to America for college.

He will be in Aspen on Friday afternoon for a lecture and book signing at the Mountain Chalet beginning at 5 p.m.

His book, “Facing the Lion,” was written to help middle school students understand his culture and appreciate the different ways the world’s children grow up.

Lekuton began his journey at a small school on the dusty plains of Marsabit, returning home to herd cattle whenever possible. He was selected to attend the Moi High School in Nakuru and earned a scholarship to St. Lawrence University.

His tribe sold some of its most precious possession, cattle, to pay for his airfare to the United States. He earned a master’s degree in education while returning to help his people during school breaks.

Lekuton has been teaching American history and social studies at the Langley School for seven years. Each summer he returns to Kenya with his students and their families to visit and learn about his homeland.

He takes his students to the front door of his mothers dung hut.

“It is important for them to know how the rest of the world lives,” he said in an article on the National Geographic Web site.

In June, Lekuton received a masters in international educational policy from Harvard University, two years after receiving the Order of the Grand Warrior, the highest honor given to private citizens from the Kenyan government, for his humanitarian work.

“His enthusiasm and energy are infectious,” longtime local Andy Hanson said. “We are anxious to help further his cause.”

Andy and wife Georgia visited Lekuton’s home village with the Langley group two years ago.

All proceeds from book sales will go to the Joseph Lekuton Scholarship to help other Kenyan students attend high school.


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