Mulki Hagi: Deering High School


Mulki Hagi traveled a long way – from Somalia, to Egypt, to Dubai, to Ohio – before her family settled in Portland.

“And it’s just the beginning,” said Hagi, 18, a multilingual learner who is graduating from Deering High School with a 94 grade-point average in honors and Advanced Placement courses.

But Hagi’s biggest accomplishments happened outside the classroom, starting when she was selected to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival last summer at the Aspen Institute in Colorado.

Hagi and her faculty mentor, Danielle Wong, were among 12 student-teacher pairs nationwide admitted last spring to the Bezos Scholars Program, a global leadership initiative sponsored by the Bezos Family Foundation. Workshops covered complicated issues, such as the Israeli-Palistinian conflict and whether everyone is capable of empathy.

When she returned to school last fall, she formed a team and began planning a daylong, multicultural youth summit that was held at Deering High in April.

Students produced TED-style talks on serious topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement, sexual orientation and gender issues, immigration and mental health. Guest speakers included several community leaders. Students attended different events throughout the day.

“I chose subjects that would resonate with everyone,” Hagi said. “Students told me they really liked the dialogue discussions we had afterward without teachers. It was the first time I did anything like that. I hope to do it again.”

Hagi plans to attend Bowdoin College in the fall and study government, international relations, sociology and the law.

“But that might change,” Hagi said. “I’m interested in a lot of things, so it’s really hard to choose one thing.”

Hagi’s extracurricular activities included Seeds of Peace Camp, Model United Nations, Muslim Interscholastic Tournament in Boston, debate, math and STEM clubs, Maine Medical Explorers, Young Emerging Authors Fellowship at the Telling Room and two internships, as an elementary school tutor and an occupational therapist.

The third-oldest of seven siblings, Hagi said she’s grateful for the sacrifices that her parents made for her. She sees herself as a global citizen who understands the poverty and hunger that her family left behind in Somalia.

“Whatever I do,” she said, “I hope to help a majority of the world.”