Two Computer Science Students Earn $40,000 Scholarship and Internship
When you’re a student, it’s not every day you win a $40,000 scholarship with a paid internship offer to one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Amazon.
There’s even less of a chance to win the same opportunity like that with a best friend.
But that’s exactly what happened to two Highline College Running Start students after learning they won the Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship, a scholarship awarded to 250 students, six from Washington in April.
Des Moines resident Daniel Tadesse, 17, found out first. One day after classes, Tadesse was on his way home to open a package he had been expecting. But when he opened it, it wasn’t his package. It was an announcement from Amazon that he had won the scholarship.
“I was just shocked,” Tadesse recalled. “I gasped so hard. My brother was there and we were celebrating and then I called Sam.”
SeaTac resident Samuel Deressa, 18, has been friends with Tadesse since their basketball days at the YMCA. This past year, the two had spent months of their senior year in high school mapping out a spreadsheet of scholarships to apply to.
After Deressa got the call, he went over to Tadesse’s and the two celebrated.
Tadesse said they had been watching winner announcements all day and assumed neither of them didn’t get the scholarship. Once Tadesse won, they checked the website again and Deressa’s name still wasn’t among the list of winners. They had assumed he didn’t win.
But the next day, Amazon and Highline Public Schools set up a special surprise for the seniors –– the announcement that Deressa also won the scholarship and internship opportunity.
“I was super excited when I found out about the internship because I honestly didn’t think I was going to win,” Deressa said. “I saw other students from across the United States winning and they were really amazing and well-accomplished students so I did not think I would win.”
Tadesse is happy his friend won too.
“It’s nice having a friend that works hard with you,” Tadesse said of Deressa. “I wouldn’t say it’s a competition. We definitely want each other to succeed… If I won the Amazon scholarship by myself, I would feel bad. I want him to win too, you know?”
Both students plan to use the scholarship money to continue to study computer science. Deressa and Tadesse both plan to attend the University of Washington’s Paul Allen School of Computer Science in the fall of 2022. After learning all they can during their freshman year, the two will work at their Amazon internship in the summer of 2023. Eventually, Deressa hopes to become a software engineer. Tadesse says he’d like to become a software engineer as well but his recent success has him thinking he may want more, whether that’s through education or research opportunities.
Regardless of what career path either chooses, both credit Highline College’s courses they were able to take through Running Start as huge factors in their achievements.
“I chose running start to explore more topics and have more class choices all while getting college credit,” Deressa said. “I chose Highline College because my friends took a lot of classes here and told me they loved all the classes they took and had a wide variety of classes and professors cared about supporting students.”
Deressa said he chose to pursue computer science because he loved taking his first python class at Highline College. While at the college, he’s also joined MESA, a program that serves underrepresented students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and became the vice president of the Computer Science Club.
Tadesse said he became interested in STEM education after he participated in a robotics competition his freshman year of high school. However, his interest in computer science came after he participated in a program that taught him how to manipulate websites. He then honed those skills at Highline with one python class and two java classes.
“They’ve been really fun,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot of skills that I will continue building on.”
In reflecting on their accomplishments as they prepare to graduate from both high school and Highline College this spring, the two students are rightly proud of their hard work.
“Our goal was always to get into UW,” Tadesse said. “Now, it’s like, we got the scholarship, we got other schools –– we got past that –– and it’s a great feeling to show that hard work pays off. I’m really grateful for this opportunity and looking forward to what’s happening in the future.”
And advice to others?
“All the kids out there who don’t think they are good enough… you are!” Deressa said. “Just shoot your shot and everything will work out for you.”