It was a surprise within a surprise as the $40,000 STEM scholarships arrived in Amazon delivery boxes to not one, but two seniors in Highline Public Schools – including one from Mt. Rainier High in Des Moines – this week.
The two students are part of six Amazon Future Engineer scholarship and internship winners in Washington state this spring.
On Tuesday, Tyee High School student Sam Deressa checked the Amazon scholarship website and figured he didn’t make the cut. “It was just a long shot,” he said about applying. Plus, a standard Amazon box had arrived that day for his friend Daniel Tadesse, a Mount Rainier High School student, while Sam was at Daniel’s home. Both seniors attend Highline College through the Running Start program and are childhood friends.
Sam was happy for Daniel when they discovered what the box contained and took photos of his friend holding the $40,000 scholarship placard and wearing the blue Amazon Future Engineer hat included with other swag
Meanwhile, Tyee High School counselor Michael Whitfield and Tyee administrators were tipped off by Amazon staff and worked with Amazon to plan a surprise reveal party for Sam on Wednesday. Whitfield invited Sam’s family and friends, including other members of a Y-Scholars program, which included both Sam and Daniel! The school counselor told Sam there was some paperwork he needed to sign related to graduation and college—not untrue!
Sam’s dad and his brother, who attends Chinook Middle School, had Sam’s mom connected on FaceTime and gathered in the Tyee library, along with a group of friends, students, teachers and district staff. Assistant Principal Norma Barrineau had accepted delivery of the box ahead of the event.
This time Daniel cheered for Sam, while confetti fluttered down, and KING 5 filmed Sam’s happy surprise. “Mom, I made it!” were his first words on TV.
Then the two friends posed for a photo together. After talking with Amazon’s representative at the surprise event, they confirmed that the $40,000 scholarships also come with a paid Amazon internship the summer after their first year of college to gain hands-on, practical work experience with mentorship from Amazon leaders. Some Amazon Future Engineers get invited back for future internships and job offers.
Sam plans to attend the University of Washington and major in computer science. He says he wants to serve elderly and disabled citizens through assistive robotics and computer science. Daniel has not quite decided between UW and the University of Southern California but has also been accepted into the computer science programs.
Congratulations, Sam and Daniel!