Federal Way graduates earn $11.2 million in scholarships | Photos

Federal Way High School senior Joshua Dawson speaks during a past WE Day event. - Contributed photo
Federal Way High School senior Joshua Dawson speaks during a past WE Day event.
— image credit: Contributed photo

The class of 2014 clearly brought the heat this year with a total of $11.2 million in scholarships earned by Federal Way students.

And while not all of that scholarship money will be utilized as students pick one college over others, the amount is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the six public high schools’ collective student bodies.

Some of the largest scholarship funds were accepted by Federal Way High School graduates Keenan Curran ($450,000 to the Air Force Academy) and Joshua Dawson ($200,000, renewable through his doctorate degree, to go towards the University of Washington), and Todd Beamer High School graduates Ben Hinkle and Blake Hansen (about $300,000 each for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point).

After getting phone calls from three Ivy League colleges - Princeton, Yale and Harvard - for football, Curran chose to utilize his $450,000 scholarship for the Air Force Academy.

“My uncle was in the Air Force, he’s retired now,” Curran said. “And my mom’s a single mom so I definitely focused in on getting an education and making sure I was secure financially and that when everything else is done, I’ll be good if football doesn’t work out.”

Curran ran track and played safety and quarterback for the Federal Way Eagles throughout his high school career. Although he initially committed to San Jose State University for football, he said the idea of being in the military and possibly getting deployed are aspects he says are for a good cause.

The Air Force Academy has a 9.9 percent acceptance rate, something that Curran doesn’t take lightly.

“You always see athletes struggling in school, they don’t have a good SAT score to get into wherever they want to go,” Curran said, noting his 3.4 GPA in AP classes. “But in my case, it was, like, my school opened up opportunities that other guys didn’t have.”

Curran attributes his success to a lot of hard work on the field and studying in the classroom, but also to his mom and God.

“One thing I never wanted to do was make excuses for the circumstances I’ve been in,” he said. “ … Nobody’s entitled to anything. Even if you’re having a bad day, somebody’s having it worse.”

Although Curran will be playing football and does have some aspirations of making it to the NFL, laying the foundation for a future family, even if football doesn’t work out, is his main goal.

Working toward a bachelor of science degree, Curran said he’d like to major in some type of engineering but is also attracted to law. Nevertheless, he does know he’ll be staying in the military for 20-25 years so that one day he can “buy a lake house, a boat or some jet skis” and be able to support his future family.

“When he was in sixth grade, he looked up the classes he needed to take to get admitted to the schools he wanted to go to,” said Curran’s mother, Shannon Curran. “It’s been amazing, this place is great. All four of my kids have graduated from here.”

Curran’s mom works at the high school as a para-educator for the socially, emotionally and behaviorally challenged students.

Curran also attributes his success to the opportunities Federal Way High School, along with the school district, has given him.

“I don’t think there’s another place like it in the state of Washington,” Curran said of his high school. “… I know I can walk the halls and there’s teachers from classes I never had, and they’re saying ‘Congratulations for your accolades.’ It’s a community and family in itself.”


Federal Way High School graduating senior Keenan Curran. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Dawson, also a Federal Way High School graduate, thinks highly of the school system for bringing him where he is today.

“There’s so much diversity in the school system and the teachers that are there truly want to be there,” said Dawson, the former Associated Student Body president of the school. “It’s just a beautiful thing to see that you don’t really find elsewhere.”

Federal Way High School staff supported Dawson’s efforts to expand We Scare Hunger, a Halloween event meant to combat hunger one nonperishable food item at a time.

Dawson’s brother started We Scare Hunger his freshman year of high school, but Dawson was able to grow the turnout his senior year.

Dawson said he used a lot of city and school resources, and 300 student volunteers to collect 10,000 pounds of food last Halloween.

The organized food drive led Dawson and his brother to WE Day, where they gave a speech on their efforts to 15,000 students. Other speakers included Martin Luther King, Jr. III, Edward Norton, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson.

“The energy was unbelievable,” he recalled.

Dawson has spoken at other conferences, such as with the Federal Way Rotary, and at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s family day.

Dawson said he plans to use his renewable Gates Millennium Scholarship of $200,000 to become a doctor by studying microbiology and attending medical school at the University of Washington.

And because his mother (current Councilwoman Lydia Assefa-Dawson) grew up in Ethiopia, where people would sometimes end up dying from illnesses such as the common cold, he said he’s inspired to one day join Doctor’s without Borders.

And if he completes the schooling, Dawson said he believes he’ll be the first doctor in his family.

But for now, Dawson’s short-term goals include expanding We Scare Hunger to the college level.

Dawson graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA and played basketball and ran track at Federal Way High School.

Todd Beamer High School graduates Ben Hinkle and Blake Hansen worked hard to get accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a school with a 9 percent acceptance rate.

Hinkle attributes his success to his high SAT score, the AP classes provided by Todd Beamer and his four years of varsity swimming.

“I feel like I got a very good education,” he said, adding that he graduated with a 3.8. “It all depends on what you do here … If you put all of your efforts into your time, be productive with your time, the teachers here are definitely going to help you and push you. I feel like they pushed me and I feel very prepared for college.”

Hinkle also received a principal nomination from Congressman Adam Smith, one of the requirements for getting accepted to West Point.

“The prestige was part of it but I’ve always wanted to be an officer in the Army,” he said, adding his father was in the Army, one grandfather and an aunt was in the Navy, and his other grandfather was in the Air Force.

Hinkle said he’s interested in studying military sciences or engineering for his bachelor of science  degree.


Todd Beamer graduating senior Ben Hinkle. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Hansen will also take advantage of the large scholarship and world-class education at West Point.  After a veteran’s assembly had him “feeling patriotic,” Hansen applied with a nomination from Congressman Smith and Sen. Patty Murray.

“Right now, it hasn’t really hit me yet,” he said, adding that he’ll be the first one from his family to join the military. “I feel when I get out there the first day will be tough and I’ll be thinking why did I do this but it’ll be good.”

Hansen also believes his AP classes at Todd Beamer helped him prepare for college and it’s a “great school as long as you take the challenging route.”

Hansen ran track and cross country, he wrestled and swam “a little” during his time in high school, as well as acted as the president and activities coordinator for the honors society.

Hansen hopes to study astro-space engineering for his bachelor of science degree while at West Point.

For more information on Federal Way Public School scholarships, visit


Todd Beamer graduating senior Blake Hansen wears his cap during a graduation ceremony on June 14 at the Tacoma Dome that displays his next destination: West Point. COURTESY OF DAVID RAMMEM


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