UPrep alumni excel in a wide variety of ways. Click on the names below to read about some extraordinary Puma grads!
Danait Yemane '13
Danait is a Project Coordinator at African Services Committee, a nonprofit that provides health, social, and legal services to immigrants, refugees, political asylum seekers, and undocumented persons living in New York City. She's currently working on a research study concerning Hepatitis B.
Why are you passionate about working in public health?
My parents are refugees from Eritrea who left while the country was at war. I saw how much health was neglected in our household, from both a mental and physical perspective, as a result of my parents' traumatic experiences assimilating to their new lives here. I wanted to study something that could teach me the skills I needed to help them, so I chose to major in public health and French, and earned my master's in health policy and human rights. In my current role, I am directly serving communities with the support I wish my parents had when they first arrived in the U.S.
How did UPrep help form your identity?
As an East African woman from a refugee household, I often felt I was navigating two different worlds that existed in the same city. UPrep afforded me an incredible education with passionate teachers and peers in a very privileged space in comparison to that of my community in South Seattle, and I realized I can live in both worlds. I learned that my experience is unique and it's my obligation to give back to those around the world who do not have the privilege and luxuries that we do here.
Andy Pham '15
Photo credit: Raul Barron Photography
A recent graduate of Macalester College, Andy Pham '15 is a Youth Engagement Coordinator at Seattle's Neighborhood House. He works with 30 to 35 students each week, designing curriculum while tutoring and building relationships with them. Andy is glad to be working with an organization that partners with diverse individuals and families to build community and achieve their goals for health, education, and self-sufficiency.
Why are you passionate about working in community engagement?
A college study abroad program in Thailand was a pivotal time for me. The work we did there was a collaborative grassroots approach that had us living with people in various villages to learn about their needs. It changed the way I think about global politics. At the Neighborhood House, I work in the tutoring center with children who have experienced trauma. I love working with these kids, not to save them but to help offer them the best academic life possible. They're why I fight against the larger forces of poverty and racial injustice.
Why do you think building community is an integral part of your work?
With the rise of technology and our fast-paced economy, we are losing the art of knowing and trusting one another. I think community is a place where we can come face to face with each other, to be raw and real, and to be a network of support for each other. Social justice work requires radical collaboration - without knowing your neighbors and their needs, wants, and fears, this work can't be done.
What UPrep experiences helped form your identity?
Being part of the ultimate frisbee team made me a more confident person. Coach Moses Rifkin's leadership inspired me. He expected so much out of us - he pushed us, while helping shape us by recognizing our talents and weaknesses. My advisor Karen Natorp Anderson was always checking in on me and was so supportive; she made me feel like a good human every day.
Kelabe Tewolde '13
Kelabe is an academic counselor at Rainier Scholars, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that offers a 12-year program and pathway to college graduation for hard-working, low-income students of color. Kelabe has also been a frontline caregiver and organizer of food for protesters at Seattle-area protests that began in response to the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans during the spring of 2020.
Why did you decide to become involved in the Seattle-area protests?
When I saw people being tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed, it hit me hard. One day, I went on a run and cried while reflecting how certain people in my networks view the statement “Black Lives Matter.” Some people have the luxury of tuning some issues out; they don’t see what I see daily. I knew protesters needed food and water to sustain themselves. Within two weeks, I had raised around $9,000 to feed protesters and provide medical supplies, hard hats, and protective clothing. As of July 20, we have raised more than $12,000 and have continued to feed protesters.
How did your UPrep education inform your decision to work toward change?
I have learned a lot from teachers who talked with me one-on-one. I remember talking about protest and why civil disobedience is important with Ms. Hundley at UPrep. I’ve realized you can’t do everything. But if you intentionally do something to bring about positive change and you’re doing it at 100 percent, that’s important work.
Olivia Dominguez '14
A recent graduate of George Washington University, Olivia is a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, working in health promotion and development with a focus on maternal and child health.
What led you to the Peace Corps?
Growing up in a multicultural family, I was fortunate to learn the importance of exposing oneself to different environments and perspectives. I strive to push myself out of my comfort zone, so I jumped at the chance to be in the Peace Corps.
Tell us about the work you are doing in Tanzania.
I spend day after day exploring a 3,000 person village, trying to understand its needs. I am here to listen more, speak less, and to support the development of creative approaches to health challenges in the community. So far, the bulk of my work has consisted of working with people living with HIV/AIDS. I also spend significant time working with the primary school health-club teacher to brainstorm new ways to deliver important health and life skills resources and information to children in the community. I struggle with being a white woman doing development work in a country that has been subjected to colonialism and imperialism. I am not here to save anyone. I am no better than anyone I work alongside. Often times their knowledge exceeds mine. I find solace in the fact that I have done more listening than speaking and in the tremendous amount of work I do to develop personal connections in the community.
How did UPrep help form your identity?
UPrep fostered my ability to think critically while learning about world history and my place in it. Through arts and language classes, I learned about different cultures and community expression. Teachers incorporated elements of social justice and equity into the curriculum. No single experience helped me become aware of my role, but I experienced seven years of subtle and grand moments that stitched together my educational and personal foundation. I learned we are part of a larger community, and it is my responsibility to support and lift those around me.
Vivian Voth '17
In 2019, Vivian hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which covers 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. Two days after finishing the PCT, she threw her belongings in her car and drove up to Bellingham. A day later, she began attending Western Washington University, where she intends to study biology with an emphasis on ecology and evolution.
How did hiking the Pacific Crest Trail impact you?
On March 21, 2019, I stood at the Mexican border and looked north. I had no idea what to expect or what the next six months would entail. After completing every step of the trail in a flip flop fashion over the next six months, I stood at Santiam pass with my tongue purple from eating huckleberries, my hands sticky from hugging trees, my legs dirty from the dust, and my heart full. I felt a deep sense of belonging and purpose and was the happiest I have ever been while hiking this trail. It may always be the best six months of my life despite sometimes thinking my feet were broken because they hurt so bad; getting stuck in countless storms and seeing my life flash before my eyes in the form of a purple lightning bolt or icy slope; waking up to wet everything; or being unbearably cold or hot. Experiencing the daily beauty and often simultaneous adversity of such an enormous adventure is a large part of what made the journey so special. The PCT makes you feel alive because it demands to be experienced step by step and breath by breath.
How did UPrep help you form your identity?
I will be forever grateful for the education and experiences I received at UPrep. I felt that every one of my teachers cared about not only offering me a good education, but about my well-being. The cross-country team embodied all the aspects of what it means to be a global citizen. It didn’t matter where you came from, what grade you were in, or how you looked; you were instantly part of the team and cared about as if you were a family member and we’d leave the running trails as we found them. I still consider joining the team as the best decision I made while at UPrep.
Emi Meyer '05
*Photo credit: Fendi Japan
Emi, a jazz pianist and singer-songwriter, works and lives with her husband and children in Tokyo, Japan, and Seattle. Her 2009 debut album "Curious Creature" reached number one on Japan's iTunes Jazz Charts. Her 2019 album "Wings" was recorded in Nashville's Blackbird studio, and her songs have been featured in commercials and on TV shows including MTV's Awkward and TV Land's Younger.
What is it like working and living in two different cultures?
Artistically speaking, different things resonate to different cultures. For example, some songs are more popular than others depending on the country. I love the perspective that working in two cultures gives you - it's a great reminder that something successful in one place doesn't necessarily translate to another place, and therefore you should protect your integrity and believe in what you create no matter what other people's opinions are. There is an audience for it somewhere!
How did UPrep help form your identity?
I definitely enjoyed Music Day as a way to develop my identity as a musician in front of many people! There were so many different genres performed, and it was moving to see a supportive student audience for all the performers! The day after a performance, teachers and students I wouldn't normally talk to would start a conversation with me about my piano playing, and I remember thinking how music can shrink the distance between strangers. I also vividly remember my trip to Mexico with my Spanish class. It was very eye opening to travel abroad without my parents and experience new sights and tastes on my own.
Dr. Sarah E. Myhre '00
Photo credit: Hayley Young
Sarah is a climate scientist, communicator, and public advocate. She's well-known for her role as a feminist advocate for representative leadership, human rights, and climate solutions. She's currently the executive director at Rowan Institute, a think tank and non-profit for leadership in a rapidly warming planet. Dr. Myhre lives with her son and partner on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Why are you passionate about being a feminist advocate for representative leadership, human rights, and climate solutions?
I have a Ph.D. in earth and ocean systems from University of California, Davis. This launched me into a place where I was communicating about climate change in the public sphere where they stakes were quite high. I realized there was a vacuum of feminist leadership in climate activism spaces. As a researcher who is passionate about educating the general public about climate change, I quickly realized it was important to have an intersectional approach to climate solutions leadership, and that existing norms of leadership are wholly insufficient to meet the scale and nature of the challenge in front of us.
How did UPrep help you form your identity?
My education as a global citizen came from art, history, religion, and literature classes at UPrep. Those classes were really lovingly crafted, and it's where I was exposed to the ideas and languages and art and belief systems of people across the world. That strong liberal arts foundation was really important for my sense of self and my humanity as a young person. At a deep level, global citizenship is about what it means to be human - it's about what it means to recognize and uphold the humanity of other people. UPrep was a really wonderful place where I learned how to do that.
Eliot Storer '08
Eliot is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. His research engages environmental management, planetary thinking, and energy systems with a particular emphasis on climate change solution projects.
Why are you passionate about working on climate change solutions?
It is worth stating simply: we are in a climate emergency. You don’t need an anthropologist to tell you that, so a humanist’s role is about figuring out how the ongoing effects of this crisis shape our social worlds, and vice versa. I specifically research land use practices—like ecological restoration—that are being reimagined as “carbon solutions” to mitigate climate change. Are these simple solutions or do they over-simplify the problem? This question led me to the carbon-rich blanket bogs of northern Scotland for a year of fieldwork, where I worked alongside peatland ecologists, interviewed government bureaucrats, conservationists, and local residents, and sifted through the archives.
I am now completing my Ph.D. in Houston, the petrochemical capital of the world, where one could probably spend their life trying to understand this city’s role in the cultural politics of climate change. Perhaps one must!
How did UPrep help you form your identity?
Our trip to Samoa the second year of Global Link, of course. I will always remember when a local villager pointed out to Raija [Sanford ’07] and me the evidence of sea-level rise on “Return to Paradise” beach. In 2007! Upon returning home, I found Margaret Mead’s anthropology classic Coming of Age in Samoa. Still, I don’t think one actually needs to leave King County to find global citizenship; a classroom experience in the humanities is also a necessary component. I first encountered Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Dante’s Inferno, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X in Mr. Paduano’s UPrep English class. I think about them all the time—not because I simply read them, but because they were taught to me.
Jovan Gayton '04
Recently, Jovan Gayton ’99 talked with us about how UPrep positively impacted his life. An architect at AC Martin Partners, a Los Angeles based architecture firm, Jovan has contributed to several completed projects, including the Museum of Water + Life and a Colfax Elementary School Classroom Building.
In 11th grade, I took an art class taught by Clara Weiss. One assignment instructed us to design your ideal house. I drew upon the influences around me: Puget Sound, lakes, forests, and Seattle. The home I designed was situated partially on land, and partially on the water. When I built a scaled model of the amphibious house, what felt like minutes was an entire night! From that moment, I knew I was going to be an architect.
I remember Jerry Gallaher’s Geometry class. I quickly realized that UPrep students were academically advanced, and this was very apparent in his class. Jerry, like many UPrep teachers, took time to further support me when I needed help. Alec Duxbury ’86 provided similar support, and his class provided a platform to greatly enhance my critical thinking abilities, which helped me to explore and focus on deeper issues contributing to my skillset in architecture.
People! Architecture is truly a service for people. My approach is designed by people for people. I seek to accommodate their needs while also exposing them to other concepts outside of their awareness. I want to share great design with the community that meets and enhances the quality of life of those utilizing the space and the space around it.
The experiences that I had while at UPrep assisted me culturally. UPrep offers balance and an opportunity to learn in a supportive environment. The academics exposed me to different areas of life and new perspectives, all of which prepared me for what could be next after UPrep. When I began college at Woodbury University, I realized I was prepared due to the education I received.
Music Appreciation was an amazing class. Snowboarding and Friday night skiing provided me with a chance to have fun, get to know others, and helped to create amazing memories. I used to conduct breakdance performances and dress up as the Puma mascot at school assemblies. That was fun!