With her proud parents and aunt looking on, Mountlake Terrace Elementary sixth-grader Melat Gebremeskel stole the show at the Edmonds Public Schools Foundation and Alumni Association breakfast at Lynnwood High School Friday morning.
The confident, well-spoken Melat told the crowd of 350 gathered for the foundation’s annual fundraising breakfast about starting school as a first-grader after emigrating from Ethiopia. Since she spoke only her native language, Tigrinya, communicating with other students was difficult. Within two years, she was reading at grade level, but her focus on learning English put her far behind in another important subject: math.
What saved the day for Melat was Math Academy, a Public Schools Foundation-funded program that focuses on helping struggling math students catch up.
“I just hated math and didn’t want to do it,” she said. “When I got into the fifth grade, I started Math Academy. I was amazed at how much I learned. Now…I ‘m much more confident and it makes me happy.”
Melat went on to tell the crowd she plans to be a lawyer. “Thank you for supporting the Edmonds Public Schools Foundation so kids like me can get closer to pursuing their dreams,” she said, which was followed by a standing ovation.
In introducing Melat, Mountlake Terrace Elementary Principal Doug Johnson explained that Math Academy is designed for fifth- and sixth-grade students, with a group of 12 meeting with a certificated teacher and a specially trained paraeducator for one hour after school, twice a week.
“It has been an extremely successful program that not only builds children’s skills, but their confidence,” he said.
Also highlighted during the breakfast, which raises funds to support student learning throughout the Edmonds School District, was the Mountlake Terrace High School-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program. An equally articulate MTHS student, Thu Phan, talked about the hands-on experience she is gaining through STEM — thanks in part to foundation funding of equipment like 3D printers — which will serve her well as she pursues an engineering career.
Phan also noted that girls have traditionally been discouraged from going into STEM classes, and the program — which draws students from across the district — is “breaking barriers for women.”
Students were involved throughout the breakfast; Meadowdale High School culinary students prepared the breakfast, under the direction of Swedish/Edmonds chef Jan DeBoer, and Lynnwood High School marketing students served the meals. The event also drew of variety of local dignitaries including Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling and Edmonds City Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Strom Peterson, Edmonds Municipal Court Judge Doug Fair and Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith.
Foundation Executive Director Deb Anderson said she was “very pleased” by the turnout.