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Mid-Pacific Senior Kimi Yokoyama had no idea what she was about to stumble upon when completing her Seattle University application. While filling out her application, she noticed a banner link to the Sullivan Leadership Award and decided to click on it out of curiosity. Little did she know that this would lead her to an incredible opportunity.

Seattle University selects nine incoming freshmen each year to receive the Sullivan Leadership Award. This award covers their undergraduate tuition, housing, and meals for four years of study—a scholarship valued at $400,000.

When searching for Sullivan Award recipients, the organization seeks out students who embody their definition of academic excellence – one that extends beyond the classroom. It doesn’t matter if the student comes from a small town or a large city or attends a public or private institution – what matters is that they meet the criteria of academic achievement, leadership, community service involvement, and strong communication skills. The selection process involves an application, in-person interviews, and presentations to determine the most deserving candidate.

“The possibility of receiving this award didn’t seem real until I received an invitation to attend the second round of the assessment called Sullivan Leadership Day held at Seattle U,” shared Kimi. “I told my mom about the invitation and that awardees receive a full-ride scholarship. We decided it was definitely an opportunity to consider.”

Kimi was one of 800 applicants for the Sullivan Leadership Award. However, only 300 students were selected to participate in Sullivan Leadership Day. Participants were given prompts at the start of the essay writing portion of the day, based on the podcast and two required articles related to the book Dirty Work by Eyal Press. The book explores the psychological and emotional hardships of workers who perform undesirable, ethically challenging jobs in America, known as “Dirty Jobs,” and the occupational hazards that come with them. Then, applicants had one hour to propose a business plan to aid those working in these “dirty jobs.” This activity challenged the finalists to use their creativity, leadership, and problem-solving skills to address real-world problems.

In February, Kimi received notice that she and 90 other students had advanced to the final round, known as the Sullivans Finalists’ Day. Kimi’s task was to prepare a presentation on the book Dirty Work and propose a solution to support workers in morally objectionable jobs. She presented her solutions to prison psychologists who often feel vulnerable and fear retaliation when they witness prison guards brutally abusing their mentally ill patients. A panel of professors and experts then reviewed Kimi’s presentation, providing feedback and asking clarifying questions.

“Reflecting on the application process, I feel my English teacher Ms. Camille Lesnick prepared me for the essay writing,” said Kimi. “We did a lot of timed writing and structured thinking in her class. Participating in and being the Model United Nations President prepared me for my presentation and made speaking on policy easier.”

“Kimi is an impressive writer who communicates profound and complex relationships metaphorically,” said high school English teacher Ms. Lesnick, sharing her impressions of Kimi as a student. “She often chooses a more obscure topic and expertly evaluates multiple perspectives while synthesizing opposing points of evidence to create complex analyses. Kimi is passionate about history and social issues, and she expertly combines her global awareness with literary analysis to display a profound engagement with the text and our world.”

While at a tennis tournament, Kimi received a call from Seattle University notifying her that she would join eight other applicants as this year’s recipient of the Sullivan Leadership Award. Kimi is the first Mid-Pacific student to receive this distinguished award.

Kimi expresses her enthusiasm for attending Seattle University and looks forward to exploring the city, meeting new people, and discovering new interests and passions.

“When I entered Mid-Pacific in 6th grade, I was excited to be in a new environment, experience new opportunities and make new friends,” shared Kimi. “I’ve carried that mindset through high school and now college.”

Kimi offers advice for upcoming seniors, saying, “Even if it seems like a distant chance, don’t underestimate the power of these opportunities. If I didn’t take it seriously and go for it, I would be really disappointed to have not been in this situation.”