I am grateful for everything. I am ESC.

Born in the midst of civil war in Somalia, Said Farah was raised on the run and in refugee camps before escaping with his family to the United States.

But his arrival in the U.S. did not offer him the solace and peace he’d hoped it would.

“I could never be Somali enough for Somalians because I grew up in America. I could never be American enough for Americans because I was born black and Muslim,” Said says. “Everything I was ran counter to what other people wanted me to be.”

Over the years, Said fell into a depression so overwhelming that he quit school and turned to substance abuse. He worked a string of dead-end jobs, including one on the graveyard shift at Seattle’s Safeco Field, becoming increasingly frustrated with his lack of progress.

“Every night, I’d strap a leaf blower to my back and walk down the stadium aisles, sweeping peanut shells after baseball games. My spirit had been so thoroughly crushed that it was the only job I could stomach – something that didn’t require human interaction and allowed me to sleep when everyone else was awake,” Said recalls. “I would take the empty bus home as the sun rose, staring out the window, regret eating at my soul. I never thought I’d find my way back to wholeness.”

But Said was stronger than he knew. After a trip to Africa, where he says he reconnected with his roots and his relationship with God, Said harnessed the love and strength of his family and his gift for writing and enrolled at ESC to study creative writing and literature.

“Writing has always been my way out by looking in,” Said says. “Through ESC, I was able to craft individualized studies that met my interests, which helped me stay engaged in my coursework.”

While earning his degree, Said continued to work full time at his job as a medical interpreter in a Minnesota children’s hospital, where he facilitates communication between care providers and Somali patients and families who speak limited English.

“Sometimes finances were tight, and I was tempted to stop my coursework because of the combined stress of it all, but I realized that this was exactly why I was going to school—so I didn’t have to struggle anymore,” Said says. 

Prior to graduation, Said was chosen to be a student commencement speaker. In his speech, he told his fellow ESC graduates about a guidance counselor he once had who tried to convince him not to drop out of college.



I AM ESC is both a welcome and a deeply rooted sense of belonging. Here, students come first. Their success is supported every step of the way so they can go confidently into the world and put new skills and ideas into practice.

I AM ESC is a testament to our students’ resolve to do more, to be more, to achieve more. And it is proof that education, family, work and life can go hand in hand, and even enrich the academic experience.

I AM ESC captures the spirit of our students and statewide community. It reflects the talents, interests and diversity of the residents and industries critical to the state we call home.

I AM ESC is a rallying cry – an all-inclusive invitation to students to freely pursue their goals and to fully experience and continually shape our college and programs.  

I AM ESC is a statement of pride, ownership and accomplishment. It’s a celebration of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going. It’s a guiding force and fundamental element of what ESC is and what ESC does.

I AM ESC is you. And we’re better because of it.

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