It’s cause for celebration: All three Class of 2019 students who participated in tutoring on Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing campus not only graduated from high school – they’re also headed to STEM programs at Washington state colleges in the fall.
The students – Bereket, Mekedes, and Semere (first names only by request) – each accessed tutoring for distinct reasons, but all are proud of the progress they made with the support of volunteer and staff tutors. Both Bereket and Mekedes joined the program in middle school, and all three students received tutoring throughout high school.
Five years ago, Google volunteers and Solid Ground staff collaborated to create the tutoring program. Located within walking distance of students’ homes, it is a convenient, supportive space with flexible hours where resident students can study and get homework help to support academic success.
Three students, three unique paths
At 12 years old, Bereket and his family moved to Seattle from Ethiopia, requiring him to learn more English. At first, he says, he wasn’t serious about tutoring: “I was in 7th grade; I usually came here to just hang out and do my homework.” He was able to finish out middle school in good educational shape, but developing language skills was his primary focus.
Then as a freshman in high school, he started to take a more earnest attitude toward studying, attending tutoring sessions that would sometimes go late. It paid off, and his grades improved. While Bereket got help in subjects across the board, he became strong in Math and developed a particular interest in Physics. Today, he’s looking forward to majoring in Engineering when he attends Western Washington University in the fall.
Semere will major in Applied Science at the University of Washington Bothell campus. He’s a tinkerer who says he “loves to mess with things,” and he finds himself using video tutorials to try new things. His love for working with computers leads him to use his existing scientific knowledge to inform innovation and technological developments.
Semere joined the tutoring program his freshman year of high school. He says, “I don’t talk as much, so that makes it harder to participate – and the workload is a lot too.” His quiet demeanor belies a thoughtfulness that sticks with those he opens up to, though.
Fred Gylys-Colwell, a Google Software Engineer and tutoring program founder, has worked with all three graduates. He says Semere reminds him of “still waters that run deep. … He’s very shy, but whenever I’ve helped him with math, he’s picked up complicated concepts quickly. When he does smile, the warmth lights up the room.”
In working with all of these students, Fred became increasingly impressed with their character and what great people they are. He testifies to Bereket’s natural leadership skills: “In tutoring sessions, many of the middle school boys would follow his lead and picked up some great study habits.” Fred also describes Mekedes’ eagerness to take on college-level computer science classes through the Running Start program. She will major in Computer Science at the University of Washington Seattle campus with almost two years of credits under her belt.
“I did the Girls Who Code program over the summer,” Mekedes says, “and I really enjoyed coding. It was just really fun. And I thought that I could gear towards STEM and technology, maybe do more programming.”
Fred adds that “getting accepted into University of Washington is very impressive – but she also got into the impacted Computer Science department, which puts her in with the top students of the world.”
The students are keenly aware of all of the hard work they’ve put in. Mekedes is happy she’s made both of her parents proud – especially her mother, who was her sole caregiver growing up. She remembers her mother urging her to do well in school, telling her of the bright future she could have if she put in the effort. When Mekedes received her acceptance notice, her mother congratulated her saying, “You listened; you see where it got you?”
Use the resources available to you
As the three students prepare to move into the next phase of their lives, they share advice for students following on their heels. Bereket stresses the importance of focus, instructing, “There are always going to be things in life later. You can do anything after you’re done, but for the most part, always try to get your homework and the things that you need to get done. My dad always told me to focus in school no matter what: ‘Put the important things first, like school.’”
“Don’t be shy. Ask questions. If you need help, get help. Be social. Make connections. Work hard, and if you fail, don’t think that’s the end of your life. Learn from your mistakes and move on.” ~Mekedes, recent high school grad & Sand Point Housing resident
Semere and Mekedes both prioritize taking advantage of resources. Mekedes advises, “Don’t be shy. Ask questions. If you need help, get help. Be social. Make connections. Work hard, and if you fail, don’t think that’s the end of your life. Learn from your mistakes and move on. And when you’re in high school, that’s the best time to find what you’re interested in – so look for extracurricular activities like I did, like the Girls Who Code program. That’s what got me interested in programming. Do a lot of extracurriculars, and be motivated and positive throughout your journey in high school – even though it might be challenging – because when you’re finished, you’ll be satisfied.”
Solid Ground and the Sand Point Housing team couldn’t be more proud of these three determined young people. Bereket, Mekedes, and Semere: Keep flying high! We can’t wait to see where your journeys take you from here.