Alumni Spotlight: Sumayah

Sumayah first heard of Higher Achievement at a sixth-grade orientation day at Eliot-Hine Middle School. “At first, I thought it was going to be all about school and work. We got help with our homework, but there was also a lot of fun stuff,” she remembers. Sumayah especially appreciated the opportunity to meet new people from different schools, and mentors who came from varying backgrounds and workplaces.

As she approached 8th grade, Sumayah didn’t know what to expect from high school placement. Her middle school didn’t have the capacity to provide individualized support or resources for the competitive DC process. That’s where Higher Achievement stepped in. Staff and mentors stood alongside Sumayah as she researched her options, visited schools, and began her applications.

“I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do for my career in order to select my top schools,” says Sumayah. “But ever since elementary school, I’ve known I wanted to become an engineer. I love building things and doing hands-on activities.”

That ambition narrowed her choices to top-ranked STEM-centered high schools, with the prestigious McKinley Technology High School at the top of her list. Sumayah’s mentors helped her identify topics to write about in her applications, and guided her in refining and editing the final product.

In the spring of 2020, in the midst of lockdowns and a shift to virtual learning, school acceptances were posted on the My School DC website. “I was anxious for the results to be posted, but when they were, I was also nervous to open them up and find out!” recalls Sumayah. Her worries melted away once she logged in: she had been accepted to McKinley. “It felt great. I remember thinking, ‘I really just did that!’”

Starting her first year of high school virtually wasn’t easy. Sumayah wasn’t able to get to know her teachers well or connect with her peers in the way that she wanted to. “We need time to process these changes. Virtual learning is all new to teachers and adults, but it’s all new to us too.”

Despite the hurdles, Sumayah is adapting to life as a high schooler and embracing the new challenges and opportunities. “The workload is a lot larger and I’m still building up my time management skills, but I’m one step closer to college!”

Sumayah hopes to attend an HBCU after high school and one day become a mechanical engineer, perhaps working for NASA.