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Publish Date: 1/16/2007

From right: Ghafar Langary rehearses for an upcoming production of “Three Penny Opera” with fellow Alexander Dawson School students Catherine Osborn, 17; Kiran Surdhar, 15; and Rhett Jones, 16. Times-Call/Bradley Wakoff

Role reversal
Afghan native chooses education over opportunity to be in a movie

 LONGMONT — At 17, Ghafar Langary has already lived a life worthy of a Hollywood drama.

He saw his home country of Afghanistan at war with the Soviet Union, only to see it fall to civil war and the Taliban. Later, a U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban and began to rebuild the country.

Last year, a casting agent visited the Kabul charity where the teenager taught classes and handed him a script for the film version of the best-selling book “The Kite Runner.” But Langary passed on a lead role in the film, and possible celebrity, for an education in the United States.

“I chose to come to Colorado for my school rather than wait to hear the director’s decision,” he said. “Since the education in Afghanistan is very bad, I always hoped to get to study in one of the schools in the U.S.”

Langary is now a junior at Alexander Dawson School on full scholarship.

He joined the soccer team last fall and has a role in the school play next month. Langary excels in English and history, but his true interest lies with computers.

“Since I was 14, I wanted to become a software engineer. I want it still,” he said. “There are no universities in Afghanistan offering computer programming or computer science in general. Therefore, I would like to join a college in the United States.”

Langary’s home is Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, where his father is an auto mechanic; his mother is a former teacher who became a homemaker after losing an eye during the civil war. Langary is the third of four children.

While teaching English to young children at a Kabul charity, Langary met Jennifer Braun, a Dawson parent who works as program director for International Midwife Assistance, a small nonprofit that provides maternity and child health aid to countries in crisis.

“I thought he had remarkable intellect,” she said. “It was obvious right off the deck that this was an amazingly bright young man who had lived ... through terrible things in his country. He showed remarkable resilience.”

Dawson has exchange student programs with France and Spain, Braun said, “but this, of course, is entirely different.”

“It just struck me one day that I wanted so badly for Ghafar to go to school where my kids go to school,” she said.

Her son is a 2002 graduate of Dawson; her daughter is a freshman there. Braun contacted Dawson officials about the promising young man in Kabul and his desire for education. Braun then transported tests and essays to and from Kabul so Langary could apply to Dawson.

Langary, who lives with Braun in southwest Longmont, was awarded a full scholarship for one school year, which has now been extended to two years.

He said his decision to come to the United States trumps missing out on a movie role.

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini follows the friendship and betrayal between a privileged son and the son of a servant.

Langary said the book’s depiction of Afghan life is mostly accurate.

“Most of ... the war with the Soviet Union and the civil war were fought in Kabul. It has been changed since the U.S. troops entered and threw the Taliban out of power. Schools, hospitals and other main things are reconstructed,” he said.

“The problem now is only the education system and economy of normal people. There are many people who are jobless. Life for many people is difficult.”

Langary still has connections to the film: One of his older brothers is a technical adviser for “The Kite Runner,” and some of his former students were selected to be in the film, he said.

But the former teacher said his preferred role is that of a student.

“Alexander Dawson is my dream school,” he said. “The teachers and the students are so kind. My teachers have always welcomed my questions.”

Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at

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