Hi my name is Aria Fiat and I'm helping out with this course. I had the privilege a few days ago to interview a brilliant young man named Solomon. Solomon is a 17 year old freshman in the prestigious bio engineering program at the University of Washington. Just two years ago, Solomon and his family, his three younger brothers and parents, immigrated from Ethiopia. And a few months after that they were living homeless on the streets in Washington. He's here today, in a following clips, to share his wonderful story of resilience. Solomon, I have first learned of your incredible story of resilience in a Seattle Times article that came out this September. How you arrived here two and a half years ago with your family from Ethiopia. How you didn't speak hardly any English. And you have overcome some incredible obstacles to get to where you are today. So, I'm wondering if you would be willing to share with us some of the challenges you faced and what life was like after you arrived here. >> Yeah. Thank you. So, when I got here, when I first got a visa to come here, I was really excited. Because I want to improve my science skills. I remember one time, I was trying to do an experiment, but I ended up not having a magnet to do with my friend. And then, when I hear I'm coming to US, I was like yeah I can prove my passions, all that. And I got here, so when I got here I saw my future, I can do like a lot of things, going to be so cool like that. And I really like water, and it was just amazing to see the ocean and rain, I like that. And then I start as a freshman in Foster High School in south Seattle, and then I'll just I can't speak English. It was just hard for me to listen. The instruction, what the teacher was trying to teach. It was like science and math, and I remember one of my first impression of my biology class. My teacher handed out the homework for the next day, and I didn't understand what he was trying to say, and he just handed out the paper on my table. And I just leave it there, I left it there, and the next morning, when I got back to class, he collected the homework, and he asked me, where is your paper? And I said, I don't have it, because I didn't understand the instructions. So, it was just fun, also was challenging. Was really fun, because I was excited to learn English. I was just happy to go class and listen, even though I don't understand because I can adapt, I know I can adapt. My pronunciation, my language skills, and then all of a sudden, after three months, as things drastically change, we ended up losing housing, and then, I ended up not going to school for a week, because we It's the place we stay and the place is far from my high school. And the first week was really bad because we end up going to the street and carrying all our belongings, like bag and it was snowy and I didn't have that much experience to be in the snow. And it was just really hard. But then we got to Mary's Place as in a family shelter in Downtown Seattle. And that's better than anything, we got shelter. So it was really great. >> So what happened once you got shelter? You started going back to to school. What did that look like, trying to go to school and then come home and study while were living in a shelter? >> Yeah, I mean, the first time when I lose house I was like, my dream is over. I mean, I'm not going to do that because I can study, all that. When I got in Mary's Place, I met like a lot of people from different background, they speak different language, they have different culture, and sometimes we can communicate to each other. I was like, how I'm I going to study in this like it’s just huge room, a big room, a lot of people just keep talking and it's just not a place to study and it's not a place for students, special students, it's not a place to be. So after I was just thinking what I'm going to do like that and then after a week, will I start to go back to school. They give me taxi every morning, and then like after a month or so, I exchanged the thinking, bad way of thinking, to the good way of thinking, meaning I started to talk to the people in there, like the people who live in the shed because they speak English. And I speak to them. And I start improving, I learn fast, I really learn fast. If I didn't get in there, I wouldn't improve. I learn really fast because I always [INAUDIBLE] them. And then I try to play with them, we play soccer. I would go to the downtown library, the central library. And then every evening, some people came to provide food for us. And they were scientists, doctors, they're just genius people. And I share my experience, when I somehow the good college, or how they got there, or that they showed me. And I just inspire well, if they got there, I just further myself. I picture myself, I will get there. I am inspired from there. Despite the challenges, I start just reading, go to the library. Yeah, that was- >> Wow, so it sounds like the people that you were surrounded by had a big impact >> Yeah. >> On your trajectory and your becoming resilient. Can you tell me more about some of those relationships? Some of the people that helped you navigate challenges and that inspired you. >> Yeah. So, whenever I meet some people, I ask them any question. I remember one of the question that, even the legislature like how to talk to, culture, how to eat, how to use the fork like that. It's just I asked any question I feel like I need to learn. So yeah, I asked question so most of the help I got was educational I one a good college and when I go to my school my most of my friend say, yeah I don't think say I can make it so, because I one of the team don't know how to take, poor in English. And your not doing I mean your not speaking well, so you should just go to college and transfer to. Can do that, but I would say, yeah, I want to go to a four year university, a four year college like that. So after that, I just talked to people and I asked people, and when I So, when I was in when I just got to go back to my school, I start as a Freshman in Foster High School, and when I, after a week, I saw the they teach for Freshman, and then, I feel like it's so easy, like, so easy. But, I can't speak English. And I talked to my counselor, and you know what? I don't want to do those classes. I want to take higher classes. And I want to skip classes. And then she told me, no, you're in the right class, you are like a freshman. So she's like, you can improve in this, so just take it. And I thought, no, I don't want to do it. So she told me she speak with my mom, she spoke to her and my mom told me to stay there but I told my mom I want to skip it. So, they promised me if I do well in the first semester like my first semester, at the end of my first semester they will switch me to junior, 11th grade. And then so, I worked out like I go to the library, I study my science class, my chem class. And then I remember I got 7 out of 15 the first day. It's like I can't understand my biology class. But I was really like upset for the first time, when I got, what I got, most of the people got 100 and more. But then at the next years, I got 100%, like 10 out of 10. After that, I never got like less like, I got like 100% every time I took that class. And one of my biology teacher like comments like you have exceptional talent in class and you post my name like the door on the wall. And he gives a comment to my counsellor so she changed to us and junior. I got all of them. I took six classes. I got all of them except A minus in English [LAUGH]. And so, yeah. >> Straight A’s. >> Yeah. >> Wow, and how old were you at that time? >> 15. >> So you were junior at 15? You were still younger than most- >> Yeah, turning to 15, I was 14 turning to 15. >> Wow. >> Yeah. >> And you graduated high school when you were? >> 16. >> 16. >> Yeah. >> That's unbelievable. We are very lucky also to be joined by Elizabeth Stein, and Elizabeth Stein, she researches adolescent depression at Seattle Children's Research Institute. And Liz is Solomon's mentor and can you tell us a little about when you met Solomon and Your mentoring relationship. >> Sure, so I met Solomon in August of 2013. I had just graduated from Brown and one morning that summer, I was listening to NPR and I learned that one in four families at various place had refugee status. And at Brown, I did a lot of work mentoring and it turned out the shelter is two blocks away from my house. So one morning, i suppose it was afternoon after school, I went over to investigate the situation and see if there is some opportunities to volunteer. And I walk in and I'm immediately greeted by little kids of all different nationalities running around this huge open space. And it just had a really positive atmosphere. And these people were really struggling, but it was apparent that they were working together and trying to tough out those times as a community. And so I started to volunteer there, and one day I was in the nursery where a lot of the kids were playing and I found Solomon who was actually sleeping. This was about 3:30 in the afternoon and he was slumped over this very thick SAT textbook. And he was exactly the person I was looking for [LAUGH] to help because he was trying to go to college and he was nervously struggling. And so, I started to talk to him about what he wants us to do and right away It was just so apparent how driven and inspired and mature this young person was. And so I kept coming back, and I brought all of my college brochures from my college tours. And we started talking about college and majors and the SAT. And over a few months that we worked together to put together his applications and make sure he met deadlines for standardized testing. And then we submitted his application to University of Washington and he was directly accepted to the bio engineering program. A very prestigious feat. >> Wow, so you sort of spoke to this a little bit, but what are some of the qualities you see internally in Solomon that you think helped make him such a resilient person? >> I think that Solomon is an incredibly self aware and inspired person. He has a very clear sense of what he wants to do. And he didn't know how he wanted to get there, but I think having that purpose in a sense of self and a sense of his goals. I think that really drove his success. >> Great, thank you Liz. So turning back to you Solomon. How do you feel like the experiences during that year of being homeless, helped shape who you are today and how you approach challenges. >> Yeah, so when I was in a shelter as I say I start my junior here in the same year and I start the senior the next year. So it was like really hard as a senior I have to think to college. I was that but I didnt have like just in one year >> [LAUGH] >> Yeah, so I was just challenging like when I start my senior in the next year I was just like I'm going to go to college and I don't know how am I going to get there. I was tough but just I was so great like I try to ask people and all of the sudden I met Liz. So she just graduate from Brown and she brought a lot of brochures about the school, like different Ivy League school, public school, all that. I didn't even know how the school works before. I just wanted to go for four years but I didn't have any idea how this works. And then we organizer, like here. Identify like Ivy League school, a top public school, community college. All the challenges, all the applications and procedure like that. So, I started here so I can do it. >> Wow, so tell me, why did you choose to study bioengineering? >> Yeah, so as a summer of my junior year, I started working and at the Museum of Flight in south Seattle. And I did a lot of science related things, even before I got here. So the first thing why I like bioengineering is that when I was in Ethiopia, I had a friend. He used to play soccer with me and then he ended up losing his right leg. I think he's like, he went to his parents like far from where I live and there was war between like new world countries and he ended up losing his right leg. He went to a doctor, and they couldn't help him anymore. So, we asked how could we help him? The doctor told us, we don't have any. He's lost the connection between the nerve and his body’s loss, so we can't help him anymore. We can't have device to help him. And after that, I started taking math class and science class just to take science. Not just to solve that. I was just like, why hasn't our country done that to help someone? So when I got here, bioengineering is the best thing for me because what I did was Before I knew in uuu, I talked to the each department, what the opportunities they have. And I met one of the professors here. His name is Dr.. He was teaching us math for SAT prep over the summer. And I would answer the question just fast. Like in math, when he asked it, I just answered it. And he told me to stay behind the students. And he said, yeah you know what. It seems like you like math. And you do well in math. Are you good science like that. And I told him, yeah. And then, so do you know what you want to do in the future. I told him, well I like science and math but I do not know what I am going to do. I may just choose one major and something to do with math and science. And he told me, well you can, if you get out before like you gap or somewhere, you can just like explore what your interests are. Are you sure you can talk to someone, and I said yes, thank you. And then I got his contact number and his email, and I emailed him. And he find out someone from each department to talk to the people. And then I talked to each department from electrical engineering, computer science, Bioengineering, and I also liked the Biology department, like that. So, I ended up like Bioengineering, because Bioengineering like the center of like, it's just interdisciplinary for any department. Like if I do Bioengineering as a fresh, I mean as an undergrad, I wanted some other department I can do, because I have to learn other courses as a bioengineer. It's just anything. This is the center of all engineering, like all. So yeah. That's what I like about bioengineering. >> Sounds like a really great reason, and sounds like you made a really thoughtful decision about it. Okay, tell me more about your recent accomplishments. And don't be humble. I know, I heard that you have some research that you're going to be presenting in DC, what's that all about? >> Yeah, so thank you. Yeah, I mean my reason, so I got into it and I was really excited. So when I got here, I was like, just tell me you got into bioengineering. I was just so great to hear it. That was my enjoyment. I got in. It was just so good. And then, I heard they have a summer research program, research program. And I applied to it, and I got in, which is called project. So I had like a chance to, I graduate June 13 and I start June 21st. I was working all the summer under project. So my research is here in bio engineering department in lab and is about the addition addition So my project is basically create a device that help us to see more cells and molecules and like micromolecules when I move in real time. So when they we want to say how fast they move, and how they attack through the surface of the person of the shark. How they attack humans, especially hard platelets like that. So, yeah. So I was like my experiment in bioengineering wasn't that good. I mean, I like science but from high school years it's big difference. I start like researching for two weeks. It was the first two weeks when I got here. So the next week, well, you know what, I better just do it instead of changing a lot of how do I do. Just why don't I just use my experience before and just do something. And then it took me just two days to get my device. My professor wasn't here, she wasn't, my PI wasn't here. She went somewhere for a meeting. And I just have a 3D printer. We have a lot of resources. So I went there and designed, there's a. I designed that. I print out. I put it together and it work out, just like try it out like that and I think they got it. It was sure was impressive once you get so many, how did you that? >> Do you have any idea how impressive you are. Do you know how impressive you are. >> [LAUGH] Yes. So that was really great. >> Wow. >> And then I present my research. Like it was end of, August 22nd was the end of the program, and I took my device there, and I showed them I was like, I timed it wrong. [LAUGH] So, yeah I keep doing my research. I'm taking a lot of credits here. It's really big work, so I do I'm attend class till like two or depend avid change schedule. And after my class I have my lab so I keep doing my lab and so because of my lab idea, a lot of research so the D.C. say give me a chance to present my research at Washington DC. On Hilton Hotel from February 19 to February 22nd. And they cover all the travel, scholarship, everything and it's so cool. >> Have you ever been to DC. >> No when I come here. >> Okay. >> I just say I've never been in the city. It's kind of, that's very exciting. >> Yes. You're going to enjoy. The nation's capitol is a cool place. >> Yeah. >> Well, congratulations. That's beyond impressive. >> Thank you. >> Okay so, my last question, I know you've you recently returned to Mary's place., Can you tell us about why you returned and why you didn't there? >> Yeah so, just as I said, I couldn't have guessed in here if I didn't do, If I just stayed in the street I made [INAUDIBLE]. So like I like to help people like I got here because I got help from this and from my other mentor. So I like to help other people. There's a lot of kids like me who want to pursue their dream in the future in different field. So I want to help them as I can. If I can't, I can I can help them to find someone who can help them there, to pursue their interest. So that's why I went back to place to help people. And I still keep in touch with them, like on Facebook. Actually, last night, I was to where I was asking them where they are, like that, because I just finished my midterm, and I was just asking them. Yeah, so- >> So what kinds of things do you do with the kids there when you go volunteer. >> Usually when I go volunteer, it's just explain and helping homework. And there's some people like in high school, as a junior like that, and they need to know. They just asked question, like about college, all the college work is, it was an interview. Like to go to college like that. I just share my experience and they will learn what they need for that. And then like share resources. Especially like, we have a Facebook page for when you are, they ask me a question. I just Google it and find it, I just share the link and they will find out about. >> Wonderful. And what's the best advice you could give to a young person in a similar situation that you were in. Maybe someone at Mary's Place who aspires to go to college, aspires to do something and fulfill their dream. >> Yeah, I think I'll say to the first thing you like, be yourself and work hard, and know what especially your dream is like know what you want to do. If you're just like in the middle some time and you just like. So, i guess, it's, you know, it's really hard first to work hard, that's the first thing. They have to see themselves they can get somewhere if they work hard. That they have to believe themselves, pay themselves for a... So how to believe they can prove it they can get there. And then they can do work hard, and if they can do, they can ask help like a lot of people are happy to help like and yeah and just to be active. Not just like if they got negative things done, that negative thing. Don't just let them down. They have just to think positive ways instead of just always thinking negative way yeah. >> Wow. Solomon, thank you so much for sharing this incredible story of resilience. It was such an honor to meet you and get to talk to you. And I'm really grateful that you shared your story with the rest of our course. >> Yeah thank you so much.