By Joe Everson for The Spokesman-Review | Source: The Spokesman Review, Spokane WA
Ibrahim Daniel had just won the lottery, but he didn’t feel like celebrating.
Almost seven years ago, Daniel’s mother and sister had entered him into a drawing that selected students for admission to Pride Prep, a grade 6-8 charter school that was going into its second year. He wasn’t excited, to put it mildly.
But now, as Daniel graduates from Innovation High School, Pride’s grade 9-12 affiliate, he has no regrets, valuing the lower student-teacher ratio, the opportunity to develop closer relationships with teachers and finding friends from all sorts of different backgrounds.
“I had a great fifth-grade year,” he said, “and then I found out that my mom and sister had put me into the drawing. I was upset because I was leaving all my friends. I had this story in my head that I would have all 12 grades at the same schools with them.
“But it didn’t take very long to change my mind at Innovation. I liked the way they taught – there were no walls and I started making friends after a couple weeks. My mom is from Ethiopia and my dad from Eritrea, and the opportunity for a better education is why they came to America, and they liked that Innovation is focused on math, science and technology.
While Innovation is smaller than traditional high schools, Daniel said, “obviously I get more one-on-one time with teachers, and because it’s more inclusive I got to know my peers better as well.”
But he acknowledged that it wasn’t always easy for him.
“I played football at Ferris, and when I would walk the halls there before practice, I would still sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be in that environment, because I’m really social.”
Innovation is a project-based program and offers a strong curriculum including International Baccalaureate, a rigorous two-year program focusing on personal and academic development and, upon successful completion, a globally recognized diploma. Daniel described the school as offering big projects instead of busy work, and said that students have a voice in elective offerings.
He is planning to attend Washington State University, majoring in communication with a sports journalism minor. He also was accepted at the University of Washington.
“I looked at both, but decided that WSU offers the quickest way to my career and also more support,” he said.” It’s not as big as UW, and I do better when there aren’t as many students. My dream is to be on television, and I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to get there.”
Daniel has had the opportunity to visit Ethiopia twice, before eighth grade and again before his junior year at Innovation, and said that it opened his mind and his eyes.
“Going from the United States, which is so highly developed, to a Third World country, there’s no comparison. Until I went for the first time, I didn’t really understand the differences that my parents described, but I became much more conscious of those, and much more grateful. It made me aware of the reasons my family came to America.”