South African students in Wichita mourn Mandela's death

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WICHITA, Kan. -- Thursday's death of former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela is being felt around the world, including by South Africans nearly too young to remember their country before Mandela's leadership.

Wichita State University students from South Africa said, while they are too young to remember apartheid, they still grew up in a better South Africa because of Nelson Mandela.

"I grew up learning everything about him and he was still a big part of my life, even though I'm a little young," Calvin Pearson, a Wichita State senior and member of the university's golf team said.

"It makes me sad because I really respected him as such a public figure and just everything that he did for the country," WSU physician assistant student Caley Roberts said.

The students said their sadness comes from knowing a major figure of their childhood and an influence they and many South Africans deeply respected is now gone.

"Not many countries can have a figure like that," Pearson said. "He's just the granddad of everyone and everyone looks up to him and it's just been great having a figure like that in my life."

Roberts was born in 1986 and is too young to remember much of what life in South Africa was like under the last few years of apartheid. However, she remembers Mandela's release from prison and his efforts to unify South Africa.

"I don't remember the day or anything like that, but I remember the big hype around it and I remember the big rugby game he attended when he was president and that wa sa really big deal for the country at the time," Roberts said.

Both Roberts and Pearson say, though Mandela is now gone, his influence will continue to be felt throughout South Africa and around the world.

"His presence is still there," Pearson said. "Even to this day, he still has a major influence on the country and everything."

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