If you have an opportunity to sit down and chat with Genesee Rickel, do it! You will be pleasantly surprised by her maturity, command of expression, and even wisdom. Her curious intellect and position on human rights and sustainability defy her 20 years. She is truly a testament to the high quality of students who choose to study at Shoreline Community College.
Genesee grew up in a family that valued education; both her parents had college degrees and she recalls always having a thirst for knowledge. She attended Parkwood Elementary and was placed in the Room Nine Program, an alternative program that provided hands-on learning in an interactive environment. The open format was perfect for this inquisitive young girl who enjoyed exploring the world, its people, their customs and values -- and it was here that the seeds were planted for her quest to support social justice.
Her memory of her first favorite book, “Number the Stars” about the Holocaust was the spark that ignited her desire to help others. “It really affected me. How could this happen?” she asked with compassion. During those early years, Genesee went to public meetings with her parents to learn about social injustices around the world, such as the Irish conflict, and her desire to help raise human rights awareness was born. She followed her heart and in high school, led the efforts of the Amnesty International Club as president at Shorewood High School, and at Shoreline Community College, was hired into the Student Government position of Minister of Social Justice.
It was in Room Nine at Meridian Park that she also discovered her interest in protecting the environment. Her project on climate change focused on wave energy and although she wrote the report years ago, the impact of the knowledge she gained has stayed with her. She has been instrumental in raising awareness of- and promoting sustainability here at Shoreline Community College and has been very active in the development of the college’s recycling program as well as this year’s Earth Week program.
“If I could put all my efforts into one thing right now (besides school), it would be helping promote the urgency of a sustainable environment. Climate change is central to the global community and it plays an important role in human rights.” She said she is impressed with the organizations that provide micro-financing opportunities to help people become financially independent.
Genesee has been someone to take charge even during difficult times. Her pregnancy at 17 had made it impossible to graduate with her friends at Shorewood High School, but she realized the value of enrolling in the CEO Program at Shoreline Community College, which she did in the fall of 2006. She completed her GED at 18 and immediately began her college education, managing 20-25 credits each quarter for the past year, while maintaining a 3.95 GPA. She enjoyed taking the classes she had missed out on during her junior and senior years at Shorewood, such as chemistry and other science-related courses.
Genesee plans to transfer to the UW’s Jackson School of International Relations and to earn a double major in International Studies with a specialization in Human Rights Law and Russian Literature. She is currently working on an honors paper, “Russian Literature and Plato’s Theories of the Human Soul.”
She is thrilled to be able to walk at commencement next month and to give the student address. “I missed my high school graduation, so this means so much. It’s exciting to know how far I’ve come and be comfortable with the failures as well as the accomplishments. Shoreline has given me luck and faith, and I think it’s given all its graduates the same. If you want to go far, you have to trust yourself.”
Genesee’s hard work is not only for her own rewards, but for Mimi, her daughter. “I want to make sure I live up to my standards…I figure this is the best way I can help Mimi.”