Rachel Walker has known plenty of inspirational students during her years teaching at Global Connections High School in SeaTac. But she says Brook Negussie stands out.
Brook was voted most inspirational student the past three years for his tireless support of his classmates. He gets straight A's, he's the president of the Africa United Club on campus, raising books and money for schools in Africa. He plays on the school tennis team, and has become an avid biker, completing the Seattle to Portland bike ride twice.
Those accomplishments alone would put him at the top of his class. Then there's everything he's overcome to get there.
"Most don't realize what he's been through, from immigrating from Ethiopia in the 4th grade, learning English on his own and coming from a very low-income household where his single mother works long hours at a minimum-wage job to support him and his sister," says Walker.
It's why she nominated him to be the first recipient of KIRO Radio's Standout Student Award. And Brook says he was thrilled to be chosen for the $1,000 scholarship.
"I live with my single mother and it's going to be really hard to pay for college and stuff like that. It just relieves some pressure in paying for college, which is really nice."
Hopefully it's just the first of many scholarships to come. He certainly deserves it. Walker says Brook shows more dedication and tenacity than anyone she's ever met.
"At times I wondered about what motivates Brook; he works harder than anyone I know. One morning, he looked particularly tired and I asked, When was the last time you got enough sleep? He thought about it for a moment and replied earnestly, 'I guess in 4th grade.'"
"Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty," Brook says, and he's committed to doing all he can to fulfill his mother's dreams of a better life for her children.
Brook hopes to attend Washington State or Western Washington next year to study engineering. In the meantime, he continues to work tirelessly in school, prepare for college entrance exams, volunteer and participate in sports when he can.
So how does he keep up? Walker says Brook is the most organized person she knows, often reminding her of everything that needs to get done. Brook says the secret is keeping his planner up to date and making sure his alarm clock is working, then sticking to his schedule strictly.
"I just find time to do everything, it's crazy I know but I just do it. It's stressful, but it's worth it."
As for getting a good night's sleep? "I'll eventually get it. Maybe when next summer comes," he laughs.
That's why KIRO Radio 97.3 FM and Comprehensive Wealth Management are proud to name Brook Negussie as the Standout Student of the month.
Brook is just one of nine students who will be selected for one of the scholarships. One of the recipients will also receive a $10,000 grand prize scholarship.