“We are family always.”
The logo stenciled on the walls at North Central High School certainly rings true for Mieri Kahsay.
“NC has become my second home,” she said.
Born in Eritrea, Africa, Kahsay emigrated to the U.S. when she was 6 years old. World Relief helped her family settle into their new life.
“Eritrea struggles with freedoms, and my parents wanted us to have better opportunities,” Kahsay explained.
She spent countless hours learning English and then catching up scholastically with her peers.
“I received a lot of help as a child from people who mentored me and taught me English,” she said.
That inspired her to want to help others.
“Mieri believes the best way to help people is to work beside them and encourage them to be the best, most authentic version of themselves,” said NC counselor Lyndsey Sabo. “She also believes in the power of accountability and peer mentorship. She’s a passionate, motivated, goal-oriented, friendly, happy, hardworking, positive leader.”
Kahsay came to North Central in seventh grade to attend the school’s Institute of Science and Technology. The STEM-based program allows students to attend both middle school and high school on NC’s campus.
“It was so nice to get familiar with high school and understand the culture and meet the staff,” Kahsay said. “I met teachers who inspired me.”
One of those staff members was school community facilitator, Shamerica Nakamura.
“When I met Mieri I was taken aback by her leadership ability and how passionate she was,” Nakamura recalled. “She offered academic support for her friends. She understands the power in having connection.”
“As a young Black immigrant woman, she can see the world from many perspectives and finds herself feeling very empathic toward people.”
Kahsay is uncomfortable with the praise.
“To be honest, I’m not a natural leader,” she said.
That may be, yet this year she stepped up to help organize the Groovy Shoes basketball game – the annual Spirit Week rivalry against Shadle Park. She coordinated the student Penny Drive for Joya Child and Family Development and she chaired the school food drive. They collected enough food and hygiene items for the school food pantry that they were able to donate some of what they received to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.
As if those activities weren’t enough, she’s an excellent student, and also helps lead the Shades Club.
“It’s where people of different backgrounds get together and discuss hard topics and current events,” Kahsay said. “We try to understand each other’s stories.”
When going through the rundown of her activities, Kahsay laughed.
“Leadership has become my life,” she said. “Sometimes it disrupts my family life because I’m here so much. I love giving back to my community.”
The COVID-19 pandemic quarantine curtailed many of her responsibilities and Nakamura said the shutdown enabled the busy student to recognize that she needed to take care of herself, to better help others.
Sabo saw that as well.
“Mieri used it as an opportunity to seek personal growth and maturity inside herself that she wouldn’t have explored otherwise,” Sabo said. “Most teenagers don’t want to spend their time on others, but Mieri is all about serving.”
Sabo said it’s this desire to serve that led Gonzaga University to give Kahsay a full-ride, four year scholarship.
Kahsay was thrilled by the scholarship.
“Gonzaga has been my dream school forever!”
She plans to study political science and eventually pursue a career in social work or law.
“Mieri is a fantastic human,” Nakamura said. “When she sees something that isn’t right, she speaks up – she wants to help find a solution. We’re going to miss her.”
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