Former Yesler resident and NAHRO scholarship winner fulfills a dream, graduates this June

Written by on June 12, 2017 in Seattle Housing Authority - Comments Off

By Nancy Gardner

The Voice editor

When we first met Valerie Najera, she was a senior at West Seattle High School living with her family in Yesler Terrace.

Valerie Najera, on a recent afternoon. She's the first in her family to go to college.

Valerie Najera, on a recent afternoon. She’s the first in her family to go to college.

She’d just been awarded the Pacific Northwest Regional Council’s (PNRC-NAHRO) Challenge College Scholarship and dreamed of studying computer science at the University of Washington (UW).

In just a couple of weeks, the former tennis player and National Honor Society member will receive her bachelor’s degree in Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) from the UW.

The Voice caught up with the 22-year-old to ask how she feels, what’s she’s been doing, and what advice she’d give young people.
The Voice (V): What was college like?
Valerie Najera (VN)): Since I was young, I knew I wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives and also be part of the technology field. When I applied to college I knew I wanted to study engineering. At the time, I did not know which engineering department I wanted to be a part of, and I also did not know that once I was accepted to the UW, I had to apply to each engineering department for admittance.
During a summer internship in 2014, I discovered the engineering department that would allow me to achieve my goal was the HCDE department. It took me three application tries until I was accepted into the department, but I continued to persevere because I knew that the opportunities this department would bring to my life would allow me achieve my goal of helping people and also make me happy. I can honestly say that the past two years that I have been in this department have been the happiest moments of my college career.

(V): What were your favorite college experiences?
(VN): I’ve had the great opportunity to be president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers for two consecutive years. I have also traveled to the Makah Nation Tribe with my HCDE department to teach middle school students about Design Thinking. And I’ve participated in hackathons that have allowed me to create projects that can help people.

(V): What advice would you like to share?
(VN): I would not have been able to enjoy my college career had it not been for all of the scholarships I received. I would encourage all students to apply for as many scholarships as possible!
And my advice for incoming college students is to not give up. College has been one of the most amazing times of my life, however along with those great moments came very challenging and difficult ones. I say to all incoming students to never give up, whether it’d be to pursue a specific major, a study abroad opportunity, an internship or a job.
Find your academic support early on, join clubs at your university, find people who believe in you and who will support you when you come across your challenging roads.



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