In the quest for high-tech knowledge, a single dad finds a path to a better life, for himself and his son
As a single father, Jeremiah Walters worked furiously to juggle his job as a bartender at an upscale Bellevue restaurant with the often-exhausting everyday responsibilities of raising his son. Then he decided to work smarter instead of harder.
One of 10 inaugural recipients of a UW Certificate Scholarship, Jeremiah knew that education was the path to a better life for him and now 11-year-old Jameel. He’s weathered a spate of homelessness, financial instability and humbling appeals for help along the way.
With a Harvard- and UW-educated father and a librarian mother, Jeremiah and his six siblings grew up understanding the value of going to college. Jeremiah set his sights on an engineering degree at a private school in Florida after graduating from Seattle’s Garfield High School, only to see his college career cut short by financial issues after just one semester.
He returned to Seattle and took some business courses at local community colleges — until fatherhood came his way.
“I was young, and I became more concerned about making money than continuing my education,” Jeremiah recalls. “My dad had been away from the family a lot while he was going to school. I didn’t want that for my son.”
When people are in dark places with their careers, their lives, I believe I can be tangible proof that with hard work and a little help from others, anybody can do this.
— Jeremiah Walters
Serving up drinks and conversation over the next decade to high-tech workers from companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Expedia, Jeremiah listened intently as they talked about their work. Inspired, he decided to enroll in an intensive four-month training program to become a computer coder.
“I felt I had to do more. I wanted to learn, learn, learn. I wanted to work smarter, not harder,” recounts Jeremiah, who doubled up on bartending shifts to save enough money for the full-time coding program.
But he couldn’t save quite enough, and he and Jameel wound up sofa-surfing among friends or renting a cheap spare room in a stranger’s house. It was a tough time, “but I thought it was important for my son to see me with my spirits up and my eyes on a goal,” Jeremiah says.
When he found himself still $4,000 short on tuition for the program, he swallowed his pride and established a GoFundMe page that somehow caught the attention of a local e-commerce executive. After one informal coffee meeting, the exec offered to pay Jeremiah’s tuition in exchange for a four-month internship once the new coder graduated.
The internship lasted just two months before the company, Mercutio, offered Jeremiah a full-time job that has further stirred the ambitions of the newly minted high-tech worker.
“My job is front-end development, but I see and hear other people at work talking about how they’re driving decisions and it’s all based on data analysis,” he explains.
The UW certificate program in data analytics would broaden Jeremiah’s skills and career potential. But after just barely getting back on his feet, he couldn’t afford it. The UW Certificate Scholarship makes his next steps in life possible.
“I want to be an asset to the industry with the new knowledge I’ll have, but I also want to expose tech fields to people of color, to women and to others who are underrepresented in the industry,” he concludes. “When people are in dark places with their careers, their lives, I believe I can be tangible proof that with hard work and a little help from others, anybody can do this.”
You can help open the door to opportunity for other students like Jeremiah.