Photo: KING

BioE research intern David Yama defies all conventional stereotypes of a high school dropout.

After dropping out at age 14, David realized that he wanted to do more with his life than work a string of dead-end jobs. “I always wanted to do something bigger and I didn’t see myself waiting tables all my life,” he says. Ever since, David, now 30, has overcome obstacles and succeeded in education and research.

At age 27, David decided to go back to school, earn his GED and pursue an associate’s degree. After enrolling at South Seattle College, he discovered bioengineering through UW’s Building Bridges to Bioengineering (B3) program, which provides community college students a paid summer internship in biomedical and bioengineering labs. In the two years since, he’s worked as a volunteer research intern in UW Bioengineering Assistant Professor Deok-Ho Kim’s lab.

David’s hard work has paid off. He has received a top honor from Phi Theta Kappa, an international honors society for community college students. David was selected as one of 20 students on the 2015 All-USA Community College Academic Team, which recognizes high-achieving community college students who demonstrate academic excellence, intellectual rigor and dedication to leadership and service.

David will graduate with his associate’s degree this June from South Seattle College. He’s planning to transfer to UW, and if accepted, pursue a major in bioengineering.

David’s success was recently profiled on Seattle’s KING 5 TV and in The Seattle Times.

Watch the KING 5 video: