Celi Tamayo-Lee

Celi graduated from a large, highly competitive public magnet school in San Francisco where she was a leader in student government, a board of education representative for her school and an athlete.

She was active outside of school, too, not only in her own community—she interned for local nonprofits devoted to health issues, affordable housing and educational equality—but also in others: one summer, for example, she volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans to help people who had lost their homes during Hurricane Katrina. 

Celi Tamayo-Lee Student

San Francisco, California

During her college search, Celi investigated various types of schools throughout the country: big, small, public, private. But she was most interested in finding a liberal arts college. She visited Evergreen in her junior year, during a spring-break road trip with her family. Her father had a friend who had gone to Evergreen, so they decided to check it out. “It was definitely a beautiful campus and what struck me was that it was so different from the urban beat of San Francisco,” she says. Since she was looking to expand her horizons, she was intrigued. 

She was also attracted to the college’s interdisciplinary approach and its use of evaluations instead of grades. “I had a lot of qualities that couldn’t be assessed by grades,” she says. 

After whittling down her prospects, she chose to enroll in Evergreen because of its liberal arts focus and emphasis on the development of critical thinking skills. “I wanted to learn how to learn and I wanted to enjoy learning,” she says. In high school, she found too much of her education funneled into performing well on tests: “memorization and regurgitation,” she says. She also yearned for a strong sense of community and Evergreen offered her the chance to develop close relationships with fellow students and faculty. 

Celi’s been intensely and enthusiastically engaged in the Evergreen community. Among her numerous extracurricular activities, she’s been the coordinator of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, a student ambassador, a Geoduck orientation guide for incoming students and a member of the President’s Diversity Fund Committee. 

She’s also traveled abroad during her time as an undergraduate. In preparation for her junior year program—which included an eight-week trip to Venezuela—she spent a month during the preceding summer in Guatemala to attend a Spanish language school.

Celi feels that Evergreen has prepared her well for the future because the college emboldens students to explore their passions and encourages them to put what they learn into practice. She says, “People come here wanting to figure out ways they can be most useful to society.” Evergreen “gives them space for creativity.” 

Nowadays, she says, “people realize we’ll have multiple jobs in our lifetimes.” Her dreams include making documentaries and teaching media literacy and skills to youth. Through her many pursuits here, she’s already gotten a head start on both. That’s been possible because Evergreen is “a place that puts the student behind the steering wheel.”