Kenny Setiao, a fifth-year senior, dropped out for a time, but returned to earn mostly A's and advise others how they, too, can bounce back.

Share story

Kenny Setiao smiles as his art teacher calls him the Comeback Kid. He likes the sound of it.

Just a few years before, he disappeared from her classroom, dropping out as a junior with just 1.25 credits, less than half of what most students earn each semester. He knew he’d messed up, and figured he’d never be able to graduate, and never be able to go to college.

“I didn’t see any hope left,” he said.

But despite family problems and other issues, Setiao decided one day he wanted a better life than the one led by other dropouts he knew.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

He wrote his goals with a black Sharpie on a big piece of paper, and tacked it to the ceiling over his bed. They were simple: Get up. Get ready for school. Be on time.

They worked. He attended school every day his senior year — summer and night classes as well as regular school at Seattle Indian Center.

He couldn’t catch up fast enough to graduate on time last June, but he swallowed his pride, and walked back into Seattle’s Cleveland High School this fall, a fifth-year senior.

Setiao wanted to finish where he’d spent most of his high-school years, and leave a positive legacy.

At 19, he was older than most of the other students, but still threw himself into activities as well as academics, becoming a leader in student government and the art club.

Setiao told his story to incoming freshmen, to show them that it’s possible to go from “zero to hero.”

He recently won a $2,000 scholarship that will help him in his first quarter at South Seattle Community College. He wants to be a social worker or a forensic analyst.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.