Driving along Highway 99, you might just miss Federal Way High School. The shabby, outdated building almost recedes into the ground. It's often known as the "ghetto school," and for many outsiders, it's a symbol of Federal Way's most challenging aspects.
You might expect the impression of the people who inhabit such a place to be bleak. The first time I visited, I was prepared to meet students and teachers who craved newness, who were weary of the leaky roofs and cracked tiles, and who complained that the building prevented them from learning and teaching. My experience was much different.
Walking up to the building, you can hear, see, and almost feel the energy busting at Federal Way High School's worn seams. From the fierce way in which everyone you meet will defend the inlaid eagle in the floor - "don't step on it!" - to the student body president with more poise than most adults I've met, to the drama kids who don't care about applause, they just want a "really big stage" so they can practice performing, the people of Federal Way High are inspiring. They are passionate, spirited, and loyal. They are innovators. They embody the expression that "necessity is the mother of invention." After all, they make so much of a building that others would write off. They describe their school as a family, and for some in this community, it may be the only family they have.
Our team is designing them a new building, with new technology, with plenty of natural light, with possibilities! If they can do so much with so little, I can only imagine what they will do not only with fewer obstacles in their way, but all the advantages of a new structure designed to promote their success.
I am so proud to be part of this amazing world, even just peripherally, and I hope always to be able to go back, because each time I do, I leave grinning from ear to ear.