They’re firebrands, first-generation college students and slam poets. They dream of becoming librarians, neurosurgeons and teachers. And they’re coming to your newspaper.

Welcome to year four of our Student Voices program, which invites students from public high schools and colleges to write about issues critical to their education.

In the first two years, students lent their perspectives to write about a variety of subjects. The topics they chose included how their schools felt after the 2016 presidential election and how to make it as a first-generation college student. Last year, we teamed up with Project Homeless to focus on housing insecurity, and published stories about representation, keeping homelessness a secret and a memorable school counselor.

This year, Education Lab, a community-funded initiative of The Seattle Times, asked students to submit their ideas related to our theme, specialized education — a catchall bucket for students who aren’t necessarily well-served by conventional teaching methods, such as students with disabilities, English learners and students who have interacted with the justice system, to name a few.

Over the next school year, these students will work with Times staff to produce original reporting on that and other educational issues. Special thanks to former Ed Lab engagement editor Anika Anand for helping onboard and edit this new class. All bios and photos are courtesy of the students.

Ritika Khanal

Sophomore at Mountlake Terrace High School

Dream job: journalist or politician

Bio: Ritika is a sophomore at Mountlake Terrace High School. She serves as the op-ed editor of The Hawkeye, her school’s publication. She is also visually impaired. In addition to writing, she loves immersing herself in books and seeing the world from others’ perspectives. Her goal is to give voices to her community and to work toward a more inclusive environment wherever she goes.



Sol Chapman

Freshman at Linfield College

Dream job: librarian

Alternate dream job: librarian by day, equal-rights rebel by night

Bio: Despite a respectable 3.67 GPA and multiple scholarship awards, Sol has a reputation of being the local equality firebrand. They have written many essays fighting for equality in their former high school after being faced with homophobia and ableism. They continue to fight for others, using their exemplary writing skills to bring attention to the injustices they’ve seen. 


Mysti Willmon

Senior at Western Washington University

Dream job: editor

Bio: Mysti is a first-generation college student pursuing majors in creative writing and journalism and a minor in anthropology. She has two cats and 300 books to fill her apartment. Mysti’s love of reading and writing is what pushes her toward the career of editor. She believes editors help create the stories that need to be told.


Junia Paulus

Freshman at Seattle Pacific University

Dream job: working at a policy think tank (focusing on education) 

Bio: Junia is studying politics, philosophy and economics. She loves to read, and that love of reading has inspired her to ask questions of the world around her. She hopes to make an impact by answering some of those questions. She is passionate about the education system after having many frustrating experiences and believes that students have a lot to offer but not very many people listen to them. 


Joseph Raetzer

Senior at Ballard High School and Running Start at Bellevue College

Dream job: politician in federal office

Bio: Joseph is the proud son of two very hardworking entrepreneurs and part of a family full of service in the U.S. armed forces. He is interested and passionate about politics, world events and business, and finds much joy in discussing politics and world events with anyone! He would love, as soon as possible, to join America’s political system and take part in a restoration of the people’s rights to restore a more free society. He wishes to promote the glory of a republic, the dangers of the government, and how a more free working people can create a more prosperous land for all to enjoy. He also enjoys a hot cup of Japanese houjicha!



Lauren Kirkpatrick 

Sophomore at Newport High School

Dream job: Wherever my love for learning new perspectives takes me.

Bio: Lauren is known for her powerful speeches in school about equality and inclusion. She is passionate about leveling the playing field for those with an inherent disadvantage based on their age, race, ability, belief or gender. Her curiosity for foreign perspectives pushes her to learn. Her work ethic is next to none and she prides herself on being authentic and empathetic toward others. She expresses her creativity through her music and slam poetry. Typically, she tends to overthink ideas, hence, this overthought bio. And that’s the tea sis. 


Amelia Rasp

Second year at the Evergreen Transition Program in the Bellevue School District 

Dream job: pediatric nurse or special-education teacher

Bio: Although Amelia Rasp is weak in the physical department, she is a fighter, a good solver of puzzles and a friend to all. She is passionate about advocating for special needs, animals and human rights. She also likes music, dancing, cheerleading, art, writing and reading.


Milena Solomon Haile 

Freshman at University of Washington, Seattle

Dream job: researcher/writer for the United Nations 

Bio: Born to Eritrean parents and raised in Berlin, Germany, Milena always knew that her background gave her a unique point of view in today’s world. As an immigrant to the U.S., Milena hopes to use her voice, her curiosity for global affairs and her writing skills as a tool to bring censored issues and misrepresented communities to light. Double majoring in journalism and political science, she hopes to do research in the Middle East and several African nations and use those experiences to build bridges between communities around the world.



Solomey Alemseged

Junior at Raisbeck Aviation High School

Dream job: pediatric neurosurgeon

Bio: Solomey is the proud daughter and only child of a strong Ethiopian single mother who motivates her to achieve things that are bigger than Solomey and her imagination. In the future, she wants to be a pediatric neurosurgeon and philanthropist, so that she can support many underserved communities (from where she grew up here in Seattle all the way to orphans/students in Ethiopia).


Natalie Rand

Sophomore at University of Washington, Seattle

Dream job: urban planner

Bio: Natalie is an intended double major in geography and community, environment and planning (CEP) at the UW. Straying from her family’s traditional career path in health care, she wants to go into urban planning to help contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future. When she’s not writing for UW’s The Daily, she’s collecting CDs, playing with her dog, or attempting to play piano.


Jordan Cahoon

Senior at Kent-Meridian High School

Dream Job: bioengineer

Bio: Jordan enjoys sharing her love of learning and curiosity with others. In her free time, she plays the oboe and paints with watercolors. She is inspired by diversity and hopes to advocate for universal education. Even as an aspiring engineer, she finds it important to be tied to the community to hear the voices of those affected by science.