Rama Youssef
Rama Youssef
De La Salle North Catholic seniors Abel Getachew and Felix Songolo have won full-ride scholarships to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Getachew’s family is from Ethiopia, and he came to Portland as a seventh-grader. Songolo’s family is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and they came to the city through the United Nations resettlement program. Neither Getachew nor Songolo spoke any English when they arrived in Portland, and they felt unwelcome and isolated in school due to the language barrier and culture shock. But joining soccer teams, both students learned English and gained confidence, which they applied to their studies.

“De La Salle North Catholic gave me the opportunity to see motivated students and people who look like me and take ownership of who I am,” said Songolo.

“I realized I wasn’t just a refugee,” classmate Getachew said. “I could help others.”

Getachew and Songolo volunteered at Refugee Center Online in Portland, which led to Getachew founding a nonprofit, Hope for a Bright Future, to provide refugee and immigrant students with free school supplies, tutoring and motivational speeches.

Songolo said, “I want to make my parents’ sacrifice worth it.” He hopes to become an international diplomat and human-rights advocate in the Congo in order to help others have the same opportunities he’s had but without needing to leave their home country.

Getachew wants to become a cardiovascular surgeon since he had a childhood friend with heart problems who couldn’t afford medical care. He hopes to work with Doctors Without Borders to give back to communities in need. As part of his Corporate Work Study Program job through De La Salle North Catholic, he works at Oregon Health and Science University and had the opportunity to shadow a cardiovascular surgeon. Getachew said it was eye-opening and inspiring.

Both Getachew and Songolo said they are eager to attend Georgetown since it’s a great school academically and located in an exciting city.

Shalona Williams is one of 10 students nationwide who has won a Torch Scholarship, which will provide her with a full-ride to Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. More than 500 students from across the country were nominated for the scholarship, which supports first-generation college students from diverse backgrounds.

“I’m the only person in my family who hasn’t let obstacles get in my way,” said Williams.

She is determined and motivated to get her degree, which she says will be “quite an accomplishment, especially as a woman and a person of color from a low-income family.” Williams said it’s important to “stay true to what you want” and to “break the cycle.” She wants to be an example to her younger brothers and show them there’s a way to succeed through hard work. Williams hopes one day to become an architect.

De La Salle senior Rama Youssef has won a full-tuition scholarship to California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. Youssef’s family is from Syria; she escaped the war at age 12 and came to the United States. She said she was drawn to California Lutheran because it’s a “small community where it feels safe, like people care about you, and like family — similar to De La Salle North Catholic.”

Youssef is excited the university has a good biology program and said she hopes to become a dentist.

Here are the graduates: Shayla Adams, Kadren Addy, Berhaney Ayalew, Medina Beng, Malaya Brannon, Eriyanna Bristol, Karen Casas Gonzalez, Maxwell Castillo, Leslye Chavez, Xavier Chitala, Sarygh Dalton, John Dinh, Kaitlyn Doherty, Selah Drain, Sunny Engelking, Lydia Fields, Jennifer Fitz Cortez, Abel Getachew, Oliver Gonzalez Figueroa, Careena Hall-McCall, Geraldine Hernandez-Gudino, Elsy Herrera, Emma Hillis, Areionna Horsley, Destiny Isibor, Aaliyah Joseph, Gloria Joseph, Caleb Kelley, Chase Krogh, Daniel Lasuncet, Alexis Lopez Tomas, Taylor Marlia, Kelvin Martinez Gomez, Yahaira Martinez-Ponce, Isaiah Mattila, Delaney McEvoy, Danny Meither, Jesus Montes Lozano, Paulina Montoya-Pena, Gabriel Moreno Campos, Ana Moreno Hernandez, Josue Moreno-Loa, Abigail Morgan, Owen O’Brien, Cincere Paschal-Webb, Andres Pedro Miguel, Jonae Phillips, Drew Raleigh, Emmanuel (Seyi) Reiley, Hanni Rizk, Carmen Sanchez Ventura, Francisco Santiago Hernandez, Frida Santos Ramos, Jurell Scott, Brenda Solano-Ramos, Felix Songolo, Nelly Soriano Salinas, Elias Taylor, Anthony Trinh, Daniel Trusty, Alicia Vergara Medina, Tyler White, Shalona Williams, Belanna Winborne, Jatasia Winston, Badeso Wotcha and Rama Youssef