Kaleb Areda. Maedot Abate. Eyerusalem Alemu. Nardos Chegen. Naod Asregdew. Daniel Mekuriaw. These are the names of the “infamous six”, as I like to refer to them, of the Class of 2020 that we should all know because of their resilience, positive attitude, and altruism. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with four of these six students about their experiences over the last few months.
When you think of the Class of 2020 what comes to mind? Probably a wave of sympathy for the students who didn’t have the opportunity to walk across the stage at their high school graduation and a myriad of variations of “gosh, those poor students”.
Despite not having a graduation or experiencing the milestones of being freshmen on a university campus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Infamous Six of the Class of 2020 continue to thrive, proving there is still cause for celebration.
Unfortunately, we were not able to speak with Naod and Daniel due to the demands of school on their schedules, but they are inevitably a part of the Infamous Six.
There is this unwavering positivity you encounter when talking to this group of ICS alumni. The rest of their peers have gone on to the US or Canada, or their respective home countries for university, but these students are still here since the onset of coronavirus in mid-March diverted their plans. Although this time has been exceedingly difficult for everyone, these six alumni have kept themselves busy and uplifted by reading, volunteering, and self-teaching.
“It was a horrible experience at the time. All of our plans were destroyed, and we were completely cut off from each other. Eventually, we made sure we did things together virtually like Bible Study, and regular Zoom calls.” - Kaleb Areda
You won’t hear of idle hands here. Much of their summer was spent jointly engaged in volunteer work and tutoring Ethiopian students, helping them prepare for their SATs exams while also volunteering to help current ICS juniors with their university applications.
“This experience has been very helpful to be a part of what Mr. Barekman has involved us in. It has been fulfilling work. It’s felt good giving back, reading their essays and experiences opens your perspective. This whole experience has given me a lot of respect for educators. I’d like to thank ICS because as a scholarship student, this has been life-changing for me.” – Eyerusalem Alemu.
The Show Must Go On
If you were wondering about their own university acceptances - they are all currently enrolled in university online. Kaleb is majoring in Chemical Engineering at Princeton University; Eyerusalem is studying at Stanford; Maedot is majoring in Biochemistry at Vassar College; and Nardos has deferred her university acceptance to Columbia University for the following year.
Of online schooling, being in a different time-zone and the solitude of it all has been an adjustment unforeseen by the group. In a time when you’re expected to go out, meet new people, and have new experiences, our college freshmen have been struggling to find reliable wi-fi. However, Maedot got ahead of the game by informing her college professors of her situation and let them know that if she were to miss class one day, this would be due to internet issues.
In these trying times, it’s so important to communicate and visualize success and these prepared alumni have figured out how to do this in a way that works for each of them individually.
Success looks different for everyone and this does not exclude our infamous alumni. What does the future hold for these high school graduates in the midst of a profoundly unique experience? Only time will tell, but they have some ideas.
Kaleb has grand plans to use his degree to return to Ethiopia and establish a chemical company. He would like to see Ethiopia decrease their exports, and with a vision such as this one fresh into university, there’s no reason he won’t find himself doing just that.
With the potential of medical school in the future, both Eyerusalem and Maedot have plans to help people. While Eyerusalem hopes to be a neurosurgeon or a psychologist, Maedot will use her biochemistry degree to pave the way for medical and public health fieldwork.
Relishing in the gap year, and finding passions as one should, Nardos is taking each step as it comes in terms of figuring out her future.
Pandemic or not, plans derailed or not, these six ICS alumni are un-wavered in the coming of age experience that college - and lack thereof - presents. There’s no doubt that these driven and self-assured young adults will find their way in this world, no matter the obstacles.
A Word from the Wise
We can only hope that the senior year experienced by this class will be one in and of itself, but there is no doubt that the upcoming Class of 2021 will have an unprecedented experience as well. From an in-person school experience or remote learning, to planning an unpredictable future, the Class of 2021 will have a lot on their plate.
The advice shared by the Infamous Six has a familiar tone – value yourself and your personal experience.
“Listen to Mr. Grecu’s life stories. You’ll learn so much. We learned more from his stories than his actual physics class. But all jokes aside - sometimes we forget teachers are also human, so having these interactions with them are just as important.” – Kaleb Areda
“Be open to the unexpected and make use of the resources that you have - we were very privileged to have access to the people and resources we had at ICS. Don’t take that for granted and always put your best foot forward.” – Eyerusalem Alemu
“It can be very easy to get lost in the web of college lists and common app requirements and therefore prioritize homework and assignments less. So being aware of your responsibilities will be helpful. Also, don't feel guilty about watching a movie or two every now and then; considering the hard work you'll be putting in for the next few months, you'll deserve the breaks you give yourself.” – Maedot Abate
“Rest assured that things will work out as they should. There is something to be learnt from rejection.” – Nardos Chegen
There are lessons to be learned from our beloved Class of 2020. Saddled with their resilience, drive, and sense of community, the Infamous Six of the Class of 2020 are bound by the unforeseeable circumstances that will no doubt have an immeasurable impact on the trajectory of their lives.