Western Washington University Alumni Association

Keely Flege

Major - Math/English
Hometown - Bend, OR

“It is a generous award, and I consider  myself  very fortunate to be chosen as a recipient for the fifth year in a row.”

When I was 16, I moved with my family from Washington to Uganda, East Africa to start an orphanage. I lived there for two years before returning to start my college career at WWU. Those years were the most stretching, adventurous, difficult, and formative years I have ever known.  I learned the valuable lesson that sometimes I  don’t and won’t  be able to understand everything in life, and that it is okay if I don’t have the answer to every question.

My time spent in Uganda is so precious to me, and I know its impact on me has been profound. My unique experience has prompted me to be interested in the world around me, to have a desire to learn, and to want to share stories with my peers—to learn from and with them. I am and have always been a learner: I used to say that when I wanted to grow up I wanted to be a student, forever learning. I still have that desire today, but it has been refined. In Africa I learned the value of out-of-the-classroom experiences.

This scholarship’s impact on my life is something I am not sure I can adequately relate without losing some of the meaning I wish to convey. I say that with the utmost sincerity. I feel so blessed as a recipient, and am so grateful for the generosity of others that eases my financial burden. I am truly blessed. My parents have recently returned from Africa and are still working to find employment and resituate themselves in the States, and because of this, they are unable to contribute financially to my college education. It is a fair situation and I am happy working to support myself where I need to. But this scholarship helps ease that burden and allows me more time to focus on my education instead of my bills. It is hard to articulate how helpful it is, and what a relief these funds provide for me. I feel so fortunate to be chosen as a recipient of this scholarship and am so thankful to the Alumni Association and all its donors.

My experience in Uganda has definitely impacted the way that I live my life—in fact, it just about turned my world upside down! I learned so much (especially about myself) in the years that I was there. I think the most obvious change that I can see is my altered perspective on the world. Living in Uganda really broadened my worldview. Before the move, I was consumed by high school sports and academics, focusing  almost entirely on myself. After spending time in Uganda, however, I have a broader view, and I think I am more able to see how I fit into a system and worldwide community. I’m no longer focused so much on myself (although I still have my moments) and the trivial bits of my life, but on the greater community that I’m a part of. I know what life is like for children growing up in Uganda, and I can’t ignore it anymore. I know that there is work to be done to fight for justice in far parts of the world, and I am motivated to act, to fight. I’m never going to be able to ignore that.

I love to be outdoors: hiking, rock climbing, camping, and enjoying the beautiful Bellingham area are some of my favorites. I can also never get enough time with my friends and family.  Western truly seems to attract beautiful people, as it seems as though almost every student or faculty member I meet here has a big heart, big goals, and the drive to really make a difference in the world in their own way. I cannot think of a better community to be a part of, and I have so enjoyed getting to know people here and building relationships with peers. My perfect day is spent outdoors with the people I love. I’m also excited to travel and experience new places, although my travelling has been fairly limited while at school. I hope to continue to expand my idea of the world by visiting new places in the future.


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