“A Beautiful Journey”: Armon Tenaw’s Journey to a Masters in Social Work | Superior Edition 2022


Tenaw on an Alaska Airlines aviation day trip organized by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church mentorship program, where he and two other mentors brought seven of their high school mentees to spend a day whole to learn aviation.

At the age of 11, Armon Tenaw, a fourth-year student, emigrated from Ethiopia to Washington State. Seeking community, Tenaw and his family became involved in organizations such as the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and an Ethiopian soccer league. This community has played an important role in shaping Tenaw’s identity and professional aspirations.

“When I moved here, it was the first thing I was introduced to,” Tenaw said. “Living in a different world, where the culture and religion are very different from yours, it was necessary for us to be together to survive the cultural difference[s] and barrier[s].”

UW wasn’t initially on Tenaw’s radar during college application season — he wanted to attend a smaller college that focused more on spirituality and community. However, Tenaw’s desire to stay in touch with his three little brothers and his church motivated him to attend the nearby university.

“I don’t know what I would have done if I had left them that long,” Tenaw said. “I don’t know if I would have survived if I had gone somewhere else.”

Tenaw’s first year was difficult. He intended to apply for the electrical engineering (EE) major, but a lack of interest in the tough classes led him to skip classes and receive poor grades, which he says didn’t help. was not in his character as a student.

Armon Tenaw aircraft cockpit

Tenaw on an Alaska Airlines aviation day trip organized by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church mentorship program, where he and two other mentors brought seven of their high school mentees to spend a day whole to learn aviation.

He knew he wanted to pursue community work and connect it to his own culture, especially helping immigrant families by overcoming cultural barriers between children born in the United States and their immigrant parents, but he didn’t know what opportunities majors or careers were available. . After mentioning these interests to her advisor, she suggested the major in Early Childhood and Family Studies (ECFS). Tenaw took his first spring term ECFS class of his freshman year and immediately knew ECFS was for him.

“Even if I got a degree in EE, I would end up doing this,” Tenaw said. “It was only a matter of time; I just needed to fail to realize that this path was not for me.

Tenaw applied to the major before his sophomore year and was accepted. Suddenly, he became a more motivated and attentive student, noting how quickly his learning environment changed. He highlighted how his teachers in the ECFS department made education engaging and appreciated how he could relate to content outside of the classroom.

“You create your own learning opportunity and use your own experience to adapt to what you learn,” Tenaw said. “I’m so glad I went through this because I’m able to translate this to the kids I teach in church and to my brothers.”

At his church, Tenaw has been instrumental in creating social and career advancement mentorship programs for young students through study sessions and career development workshops. He has also worked with families from the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families, hosting conferences with immigrant parents to educate them on what to expect after moving to the States. -United. Tenaw shared insights on things like dismantling unfair expectations and forming compromises between parents and children.

To deepen her understanding of family development and change, Tenaw initially considered a double major in psychology, but felt the field was too limited to one-to-one interactions. His passion for helping families in group settings drew him to social work instead.

“I was able to take a step back and understand what people are going through from their point of view, without judgement”

As someone who grew up in a religious environment and learned rigid attitudes about not accepting other cultures and communities, Tenaw said welfare humiliated him and made him more self-aware.

“I’ve been able to step back and understand what people are going through from their perspective, without judgment, and I can see how it’s changed me as a person,” Tenaw said.

This “unlearning and learning” experience is never-ending, according to Tenaw, which is why he is starting a master’s degree in social work at UW starting this summer.

The hardest part, however, was convincing her parents and community that her major changes were the right move after giving up on her STEM ambitions.

“It impacted me and the family,” Tenaw said. “I think it wasn’t until maybe a few months ago that I finally felt confident that my dad actually accepted what I’m doing after seeing what I’ve done with my community and my school.”

Balancing between following a passion and being financially stable is a difficult journey to navigate, but one worth considering, Tenaw said.

“[Convincing others] is not something you’re supposed to do,” Tenaw said. “But when you’re so deeply with the community and your family, people look up to you and you want them to look at you in a way that respects you, which is the hardest part.”

Looking ahead, Tenaw is excited to start working in the Master of Social Work (MSW) program and hopes for in-person classes, sharing how the pandemic forcing online interactions has felt “damaging” for the field of social work. social work.

He also hopes to find a future position at UW, where he can apply his passion for working with immigrant students to counseling or administrative services.

“It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you,” Tenaw said, adding that connecting with instructors and peers goes a long way. He encouraged students, especially new students, to have an open mind and not be afraid of change if something does not go as planned.

“I’m a good example of how you hit rock bottom and you come back up and you always get through it,” Tenaw said. “[In] college, no matter what happens to you, what you do, how long it takes, if you really believe in what you want, you’ll get through it – no matter how many times you fail.

Tenaw expressed gratitude for the friends and mentors who supported him along the way, especially those within the College of Education who did not let him question his decisions; he looks back fondly on his time as an undergraduate at UW.

“[It’s] absolutely [been] roller coaster,” Tenaw said. “We had an uphill battle, [but] we got through it… It was a great trip and I wouldn’t get anything back.

Contact writer Anjali Singh at [email protected] Twitter: @anjali_singh35

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