Be the change. Embodying this ideal, Bethelehem Engeda has utilized the challenges she’s endured in her life to promote advocacy and equality in her community.
Born and raised in San Leandro, California, Bethelehem grew up in a family that stressed the value of an education. As the child of hardworking Ethiopian immigrants, she – along with her younger siblings – learned the values of persistence and dedication by watching her parents tirelessly work to provide for their family. Thus, she felt inspired by her parents’ drive and funneled that motivation into excelling in her education and discovering her passions. Bethelehem is ranked at the top of her class and has achieved many academic-based awards including the Gates Scholarship, African American Regional Educational Alliances Award, and AP Scholar with Honor. However, this did not come easy. With several challenges in her life, including her father’s death from cancer and daily five-hour-long commutes for summer programs, Bethelehem has proven to be a resilient, strong young woman whose experiences have fueled her exceptional performance in academics, and her passion for creating better opportunities for her community.
As an African-American female involved in computer science, Bethelehem consistently noticed the lack of diversity and opportunity provided to those from backgrounds similar to her own. She began volunteering as a coding teacher for the organization Empower and Excel, providing free lessons on elementary programming languages to people of all ages from underprivileged communities. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences for Bethelehem, as seeing the excitement on her students’ faces and being their mentor and supporter has been her way of providing a gateway to prosperity and happiness to those who’ve faced many adversities. She also was a student in Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute, won competitions as part of Facebook’s TechSummer Virtual Reality Program, been a part of Amazon’s Girls Who Code Program, as well as other technological ventures. She has funneled all of the knowledge she has gained from these experiences to provide advice and mentorship to others hoping to pursue a career in technology.
As Head Editor of the Dry Gulch Gazette, her high school’s student-run newspaper, Bethelehem has used her role to bring awareness to important issues in her community. Of the various articles she has written, her favorite is one detailing the discrimination and loneliness African-Americans experience in the classrooms in her community. It is a topic close to her heart, as she was often the only African-American in the classes she attended, and the article was met with overwhelming praise when published. During her time as part of the newspaper’s staff, Bethelehem has also been a part of creating articles regarding LGBTQ+ rights, DACA, mental health, and more.
Bethelehem thoroughly enjoyed competing in business competitions around the nation as president of her school’s Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) chapter, being politically active in her community through rallies and marches, interning for organizations like Operation HOPE, and spending quality time with her family and friends. Bethelehem will now be attending Stanford University and be finding more ways to intersect the wonders of computer science and business through entrepreneurship, internships, and more. In the future, Bethelehem will continue to strive to be the change needed in her community and live her life by the Ron Brown philosophy.