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Behind the Essay: A 500 Word Glimpse into a Student's Life

With Senior Signing Day less than one month away, hearing the diverse and compelling stories of our graduating Seniors makes us even more excited for this unforgettable day. We heard these stories during speeches at College Acceptance Celebrations, interviews with Questbridge Scholars, and of course, the all-important college essay. DSST: Stapleton Senior Iftu expanded on the unique experiences that led her to write an especially memorable essay.  

“To learn a new language is to think and see differently. I’m fascinated by the new lens one gains with a new language and the juxtaposition that one must navigate in an ever interfluid world,” writes Iftu in her essay. From being part of an Ethiopian minority group whose language, Oromo, was banned from 1946 through 1991, to learning Swahili while living in Nairobi, and then English in the US, Iftu has learned four different languages, and has compelling perspectives about each. When asked what lens she acquired after learning English, she shared how liberating it is to know a language that will empower her to travel through much of the world.

Iftu moved with her family to Colorado when she was seven, and a conversation with her is a fun and dynamic lesson in both history and culture. She shared how tribalism and corruption in her family’s native country led them to Kenya and ultimately, the US. In her essay, she touches upon how language has shaped her life in so many ways, including how many of her memories are segmented into what language was primarily spoken at the time- Amharic, Oromo, Swahili, or finally, English. She also highlighted culture shocks she experienced after moving to Colorado, including robust American traffic rules, or wildlife found separately in zoos or national parks, in contrast to monkeys that casual roam the streets of Nairobi.

A Stapleton student since 6th grade, she is grateful for having the space and freedom to be her full authentic self. While there have been many academic challenges over the years, they only helped prove she was capable of achieving anything she set her mind to. From supportive friends who listened to her early (and somewhat embarrassing) poetry, to educators who reminded her that you don’t need to be the best at everything to be a great person, she was able to expand and embrace her creative side.  At Stapleton, she was able to actively choose the kind of person she wanted to be, and will take that away with her as she embarks on her next chapter in college.

Iftu is looking forward to college not just for a change of scenery but to learn new things, and learn them just for fun. This includes history and linguistics classes, and potentially adding yet another language to her repertoire, like Arabic or Spanish. As for career, her diverse interests may lead her in any direction, but currently, becoming a law professor is high on her list.

500 words barely scratch the surface of anyone’s story, and we’re glad we had the opportunity to hear more from this fascinating young woman. She is still deliberating over several great options for college next year, but can’t wait to announce it on stage at Senior Signing Day on May 1!  


Do YOU want to attend Senior Signing Day 2019 on May 1 and see our amazing Seniors announce their plans for college and career? Click the button below to attend!

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