Published Thursday, December 15, 2016
RENTON, Wash. – The Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT) has selected a Renton Technical College (RTC) student as one of five winners of the Transforming Lives award, a program that recognizes students whose lives have been improved by their experiences at a Washington community or technical college.
Mohamed (Mo) Abdullahi, a computer science student at RTC, will receive a $500 scholarship from ACT and will be honored at the ACT Transforming Lives dinner in Olympia on Jan. 23. Mohamed will also receive a $250 scholarship from the RTC Board of Trustees.
The ACT selection committee was moved by Mohamed’s difficult childhood as a refugee from Somalia, and by his excellent academic and service work at RTC.
“Mo is a transformative student leader on our campus, leading and serving his fellow students as he focuses on his own transformative life,” said Kirby Unti, chair of the RTC Board of Trustees. “His studies and his leadership on campus are guided by core values of justice, love and the belief that every life has value.”
Mohamed was born in 1993 in a refugee camp in Kenya, a year after his mother escaped the civil war in Somalia. At 19 years old and with an absentee husband, his mother was welcomed as a refugee to the United States, where they had to come to terms with starting from nothing in a new and unfamiliar place.
“First-world poor is a major step up from third-world anything, but it didn’t change the fact that we have always been poor,” Mohamed wrote in his scholarship application essay.
He said his mother provided for them and encouraged him to pursue higher education. Both Mohamed and his mother attended Green River College, she in an early childhood education program, he as a Running Start student. Mohamed entered the RTC computer science program after high school graduation.
He pursued his studies while working evenings as a security guard, and also as a tutor and technician in RTC’s student-run service that fixes computers for free, a program he also helped to organize. Mohamed is a student leader in the RTC Associated Student Government and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa academic honors society.
“I have learned that community and technical colleges are the most accessible route to education for people of color in America, and by extension the most accessible route to empowerment for those who are disenfranchised,” Mohamed said.
“This summer, my family will get to see me walk across the stage at commencement and graduate with honors,” he said.
The Washington State Association of College Trustees created the Transforming Lives Awards program in 2012 to recognize current and former students whose lives have been transformed by pursuing higher education at a community or technical college.
Renton Technical College prepares a diverse student population for work, fulfilling the employment needs of individuals, business and industry. For more details, visit RTC.edu.
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