The following post was written by Keduse Worku, a 2017 graduate of Whitney Young High School who will attend Yale University this fall.
My name is Keduse Worku, and I’m an Ethiopian immigrant. When I was very young, my aunt’s request for American Visas was approved for her, me, and my cousin, but the request didn’t cover my parents. They chose to give up their only child in hopes of giving me opportunities they knew I could never receive in Ethiopia. I flew into Chicago at the age of 4, and I have lived here ever since.
I attended a Catholic elementary school until, at the end of 5th grade, a relative convinced my aunt that there were better opportunities for me in CPS. I tested into Skinner West for 6th grade, and then into the academic center at Whitney Young for the following year.
I was relatively oblivious as to what this meant, but when seventh grade began, it hit me like a brick wall. The academic center was even more difficult than Skinner, but I thrived in the struggle. I felt as if I had finally found my home. I also joined the academic center cross country team, and I excelled, winning the elementary school city championship, then placing second in the national championship during my 7th-grade year.
I remained at the academic center for 8th grade and stayed at Young for high school. Throughout the next four years, I faced countless hurdles. My grades dipped during a tough semester sophomore year when I lost focus, and there always seemed to be one class each year that frustrated me to no end. I never quite achieved the same level of success with running, and I dealt with the normal adolescent issues of self-confidence and a quivering identity. Through all of this, however, my family always reminded me of the opportunities I had before me. I attended Whitney M Young Magnet High School, they said, and that was a fact that should give me pride.
During my lowest points, I looked to my aunt as a shining example of sacrifice and hard work, she provided me with all of the inspiration I could desire, and by the second half of my junior year, and I was back on track. I took the ACT and SAT that spring with the help of fee waivers, and I began applying to colleges as a Questbridge Finalist during the fall of my senior year. For months, I spent every lunch period in my school’s writing center, developing a close relationship with Ms. Pasulka, its director, as she helped me edit countless essays.
After months of college research, interviews, and essay writing, I was admitted into MIT in December 2016. Then in the spring, I was offered admission to Williams College and Yale University. I chose Yale, where I will study Physics this fall, with a possible double major in Economics or Mathematics.
I am eternally grateful to my family, especially the aunt who brought me with her to the United States, and my devoted parents, who remain in Ethiopia. They are always thrilled when I tell them about my accomplishments over the phone. Their pride in me is evident, but like all loving parents, I believe they would be proud of me no matter what I did or did not achieve.
I am also grateful to Whitney Young for the unparalleled support and guidance they gave me. For all intents and purposes, high school was my job, and that was a luxury granted to me by my parents and my aunt. The school intellectually challenged me for six years while making sure I was able to handle it well. My counselor and teachers were unyieldingly supportive in my quest for higher education, and my fellow students were wonderful friends and teammates. I will go to college this fall with the knowledge that an entire village did truly raise me, and I hope that I can someday repay the favor.”