Mohamed | Falling in love with books

A young man who struggled in school as a boy makes his way to Stanford

“The special thing about Rainier Vista is that people from all parts of the world live here, in harmony.”

Mohamed, whose family immigrated to the United States after fleeing war in East Africa, knows what it’s like to struggle in school.  ”I didn’t speak English,” he said. “We spoke Somali at home, so things like reading were at first very difficult for me.”

In third grade, a volunteer tutor changed Mohamed’s life. “She read with me after school a few times a week, and that helped me build my skill level up and confidence.” By the fifth grade Mohamed was reading above grade level and had fallen in love with books. He’s been an avid reader ever since.

Young man in cap and gown on a campus

In high school, Mohamed became a tutor himself, working with an organization called Team Read at an elementary school. After graduation he decided to dedicate a year of service with City Year, an organization which seeks to eliminate educational disparities in the United States.  “I had grown very passionate about education and educational equity,” he said.

Mohamed volunteered 1,700 hours tutoring and mentoring youth that year. “When you see the light in a kid’s eye after they master that one math problem or read that chapter they thought they couldn’t read, it’s all worth it,” he said.

His next stop was Seattle Central College, where an English teacher suggested he write for the student newspaper. A year later Mohamed was editor-in-chief. During college he also found time to serve on the City of Seattle’s Immigrant and Refugee Commission where he worked directly with the mayor, City Council and different City agencies.

In his community of Rainier Vista, Mohamed was the youth mentor for the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Pavement to Parks project. “The special thing about the Rainier Vista community is that people from all parts of the world live here, and live here in harmony,” he said.  “We need to support these communities and in so doing, make everybody strong.”

As he was completing community college, Mohamed applied to Stanford University. “Honestly I was expecting to be rejected. So I click on the email and the first word I read is ‘Congratulations,’ and I was just blown away. I don’t think I even read the other words. I just went downstairs screaming and hollering and told everybody in my family - I got into Stanford!” Mohamed was one of 20 transfer students accepted out of an applicant pool of more than 2,000.

Mohamed plans to attend law school, and hopes to work in public interest law, advocating for immigrants and refugees.