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Two Highline Students Join 2024 All-Washington Academic Team

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2024-04-10T09:19:08+00:00 April 4, 2024|News|
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Two Highline Students Join 2024 All-Washington Academic Team

  • All-Washington 2024 Students

Scholarships Worth $500 Awarded to High Achievers

Dedication to community and helping others has earned two Highline College students a place on the All-Washington Academic Team.

Grace Thykkuttathil and Maureen Ondatto have both received $500 for their efforts, with $250 given by KeyBank and $250 by the Highline College Foundation.

The two students and other top scholars from the state’s 34 community and technical colleges will be recognized during the April 25 awards ceremony at South Puget Sound Community College.

Each college can nominate up to four students. To qualify, students must apply for recognition and be members of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the international honor society of two-year colleges. Pi Sigma is Phi Theta Kappa’s Highline chapter.

Grace Thykkuttathil

Grace Thykkuttathil, a 17-year-old Federal Way resident, will be graduating with an associate degree this summer. They attend both high school and college through Highline’s Running Start program. Upon graduation, Thykkuttathil intends to transfer to the University of Washington to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Thykkuttathil says they’re looking to “make the world a better place” especially in the face of setbacks. They refer to the impact of the pandemic and how they were affected by the isolation caused by the shutdown, especially at a time when they were diagnosed with ADD and having to learn new coping skills.

“I was unable to nurture friendships as I had in the past or build new relationships with peers while being so isolated,” they said.

Seeing how others at school were facing similar challenges, Thykkuttathil implemented and reworked the buddy system to check on each other even while physically apart. According to Thykkuttathil, the program was so successful it continues to this day.

Previously, Thykkuttathil had faced adversity as a seventh grader when a very close friend outed them as queer to the school. Ultimately, Thykkuttathil was able to transform their experience into an empowering one and it even became a source of inspiration as to why they’re now looking to obtain a law degree.

“I am deeply passionate about social justice and advancing the rights of the disenfranchised. As a BIPOC, queer, neurodivergent youth, I have first-hand experience with the ways that minority groups are systemically harmed in our local community”, they said.

Further to this, during their sophomore year Thykkuttathil initiated a group at their school called the Gay-Straight Alliance. The aim of the group was to create a safe, supportive space for other queer teens experiencing harmful language being directed at them.

Thykkuttathil’s ultimate goal is to extend their impact by supporting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Maureen Ondatto

Seatac resident, Maureen Ondatto, is studying full-time at Highline College to achieve an associate degree in pre-nursing. Ondatto’s determination to succeed is fueled by her experience in coming to the US, from Africa, to pursue her education.

The 45-year-old says the experience hasn’t been easy, financially or emotionally, but that it has made her stronger and more resilient as she works towards giving her family a stable future.

Her decision to transfer to the University of Washington and pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is deeply rooted in her passion for healthcare and her desire to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. She aspires to work in various healthcare settings, where she can offer holistic and patient-centered care.

Ondatto reflects that racial disparities are evident in healthcare and she aims to advocate for equitable healthcare practices, so that all patients receive the same standard of care — especially those from marginalized communities.

She sees systematic racism as being the most significant issue affecting her community. Its far-reaching impact needs a holistic approach, she says, with education being at the heart of the solution.

“We need to create an educational environment where open conversations about racial issues are encouraged, challenging biases and prejudices that persist,” she declared.

Mental health is another area that Ondatto is interested in, demonstrated by her work within the TRiO program at Highline College. There, she initiated campaigns to grow awareness of mental health challenges for students who are low-income, undocumented or with disabilities. Ondatto says the group was able to reduce stigma and provide essential support.

Looking to the future, Ondatto hopes to obtain a doctorate and continue her path into healthcare.

The All-Washington Academic Team program is sponsored by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, Washington Association of Community and Technical Colleges, Washington State Association of College Trustees and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Learn About Phi Theta Kappa at Highline

Phi Theta Kappa has more than 2 million members worldwide and is active in more than 1,250 chapters. Highline is home to the Pi Sigma chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. The chapter recognizes and encourages the academic achievements of two-year college students. It also provides opportunities for individual growth and development through participation in honors, leadership, service and fellowship programming. Learn about the benefits of membership, including scholarships, career resources and more.