I encourage you to really get involved on campus. I wouldn’t have met a lot of the people who encouraged and pushed me without getting involved in OSE."
After receiving her high school diploma and Associate of Arts Transfer Degree at Commencement this June, Running Start student Ruqaiyah Damrah will transfer to Yale on a full scholarship. She plans to study biochemistry and biophysics.
Like most community college students, Damrah hadn’t given much thought to Ivy League schools as possible transfer destinations. That changed last summer, when she was one of 36 students chosen to attend a Summer Science Program at Purdue University. She spent the summer developing a new fungicide to protect crops, and she met mentors who encouraged her to set high transfer goals.
“I thought, If I could get into the summer program, I could maybe get into an Ivy League,” said Damrah. “I got into four of the 20 I applied to.”
If Damrah had gone with her original plan to attend UW Seattle, she would have transferred with Junior standing. She’ll start at Yale as a Freshman.
“I don’t mind that at all,” said Damrah. “I need to have a solid foundation of the introductory classes.”
Damrah says TCC gave her the time and space she needed to clarify her educational goals. Though she’s always leaned towards research, she switched her major to business, then political science. Now she’s back to research – and sure about it.
“At first I was scattered and all over the place, which was kind of crucial to finding out what I wanted to do,” said Damrah.
Returning to freshman status won’t be a financial hardship, because Damrah has a full scholarship through a program called Questbridge, which matches first-generation, low-income and minority high school students with full scholarships. The program matched her with scholarships to Yale and Princeton.
“It’s a really great program that not enough people know about,” said Damrah.
If Damrah looks like someone you’ve seen around campus, it’s probably because she’s taken part in most of this year’s OSE activities as part the AS Productions Health & Wellness team. She views the day she joined OSE as a turning point in her life.
“It increased my confidence in my own abilities and pushed me to take risks,” said Damrah. “I’ve grown so close to the people on my team, we push each other to strive for better. And I’ve been able to gain perspective on the diversity we have at TCC – socially, academically, and culturally.”
At Yale, Damrah would like to do undergraduate research and pursue the political activism she started at TCC, focusing on refugee rights and gun violence. She co-founded and currently co-leads the Seattle chapter of Students Demand Action, a national organization of students bringing change to the culture of gun violence in America. In this capacity she organizes events, speaks at events, vigils, and schools, and plans outreach to educate people about gun violence.
“The Parkland school shooting made me want to get involved in the gun violence movement, because I have younger siblings who go to public school, which reminded me of the cruel reality of the situation,” said Damrah.
Damrah is looking forward to being near the fast-paced energy of places like Boston and New York City. She recognizes that it can be scary to try new things and put yourself in a new environment, but she encourages students to do it anyway.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone,” said Damrah. “Also, I encourage you to really get involved on campus. I wouldn’t have met a lot of the people who encouraged and pushed me without getting involved in OSE.”
About the Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year Finalists
Each year, three students are selected as finalists for the Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year Award. We are proud to announce that Ruqaiyah Damrah is a 2019 Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year finalist.
Photo courtesy of Ruqaiyah Damrah.