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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘I did it, mom’: Rogers High School student wins prestigious presidential scholarship, admittance to University of Washington

When Rogers High School student Emma Coleman walked into the career center of the school on Friday to see her family, friends and teachers all staring at her, she was more than shocked.

Her face scrunched up in confusion, her arms went out as if to brace herself for a fall. Then she was told she was admitted to the University of Washington with a rare scholarship, only awarded to 17 students in the state this year who showed outstanding talent, excellence and involvement within their community.

Coleman screamed, tears streaming down her face, as she jumped up and down. She ran up and asked University of Washington’s admissions counselor, Ben Siegel, if she could hug him. The news was a complete surprise – Siegel wrote to the school in an email to not notify Coleman ahead of time.

“I feel like I’m dreaming right now,” she said through sobs as the room cheered. “I’m in. I did it. I did it, Mom.”

Just before Coleman stepped into the career center, her friends, her mom, dad and grandparents whispered with excitement.

The room was filled with balloons, decorations and the largest smiles. Coleman’s friends could not help from blurting out how proud they were of her. Her teachers stood close by, most with tears streaming down their faces, as they waited for their turn to hug her.

Coleman’s Advanced Placement government teacher, Jamie Oleson, said the two would spend hours talking in her classroom about “how well-behaved women rarely make history.” They’d talk about her hopes and dreams, what she wanted out of life and what her future looked like.

“So many things weren’t going the way she wanted them to go,” Oleson said. “And this is better than all those things. I’m so thrilled to see what her next adventure is.”

Coleman’s mother, Erin Anderson, drove the near-two hours from Coulee Dam so she could attend her daughter’s celebration. She said Coleman has never stopped working toward her dreams – even when she was little, she was striving for the best.

When Coleman toured the University of Washington campus recently, “she just fell in love,” Anderson said. “She’s worked so hard. We are so proud.”

All students who apply to the University of Washington are considered automatically, Siegel said. The school will analyze essays from the student, their leadership qualities and their community involvement. According to the school’s website, “Presidential Scholars are selected for their values, rather than their academic accolades, and the self-directed actions they take that uphold those values to create a better life for others.”

The scholarship awards the student with $10,000 annually for four years, over the course of an undergraduate degree.

After pictures, more hugs and more tears, Coleman approached a table where she received a bag of Huskies goodies and admired her award. Almost out of breath, she acknowledged how grateful she was to have her most important people all in the same room, just for her.

“Oleson asked us one day, ‘What do you need from me?’ Like, if I was your genie in a bottle, what would you want? And I wrote down the word ‘acknowledgment,’ ” Coleman told her family. “This means so much.”

The first time Coleman visited Seattle, she fell in love, she said. The third time, her mother told her, “You just glow here.”

Coleman told the crowd in the room that she can see herself sitting in the library, doing homework or sitting outside typing away on her laptop.

Starting from elementary school, Coleman acknowledged she’s always been a hard worker.

She’s part of the National Honor Society and she has a job at Chipotle – all while attending school and doing her homework “to be great.”

“I never stopped grinding. It was just, I knew I wanted it. That’s the only thing that kept me going,” Coleman said. “My mom, my dad – they never were like, ‘You need all A’s’ or anything like that. It was something I wanted to do. So, I’m going to do it because I want it.”

Coleman said she would like to pursue a psychology degree. She has dealt with people in her life who have suffered from addiction, she said, and she knows firsthand how much it can affect family and friends.

“It’s such a stealing of a person. It takes away people, so I know how that feels,” Coleman said. “I’m going to give people themselves back. I’m going to change lives.”