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Senior 2023 Spotlight: Stephane Richel Tatchim Kouam, Singley Academy

Stephane Richel Tatchim Kouam

Although attending the University of Texas at Austin is on the horizon, Singley Academy senior Stephane Richel Tatchim Kouam still has some unfinished business at Singley Academy.

“It’s a little stressful right now because of Advanced Placement testing and all the college applications you need to fill out for financial aid and housing,” says Tatchim Kouam. “Then you have all the senior expenses like prom, senior breakfast and all the senior merchandise being sold everywhere. It’s a lot, you know?”

While Tatchim Kouam has a lot going on in his present life, he plans to have a lot going on in the future as well.

“I’m considering double majoring in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering,” he says. “Space has always been an interest of mine because I want to pioneer ways to different planets and explore the wider universe.”

The sky is the limit for Tatchim Kouam as he hopes to one day open his own tech company that will help to clean up the Earth and its oceans.

“I want to design different machines and innovations that can help people,” says Tatchim Kouam. “I also want to collaborate with those in the medical field to design bionic arms and legs for people who have lost their limbs.”

Those big dreams have a chance of becoming a reality thanks to the sacrifice his father made when they lived in Africa.

“I grew up in Cameroon for eight years,” says Tatchim Kouam. “School was very different; we did not have access to technology like we do here. There was not a public library to read books, and although we had a computer at home, Internet access was expensive.”

Tatchim Kouam’s father was on the verge of receiving a promotion at work that would have led to a higher income and a higher level of status in the company. However, he decided to let that opportunity pass him by and put his children’s future before his own.

“My dad was able to win a lottery at his workplace that provided him with a green card,” says Tatchim Kouam. “He wanted us to move to a better place because deep down he knew that staying in Africa meant we would not have access to the same opportunities that we would have in America.”

It is safe to say that his father made the right decision. Earlier this year, Tatchim Kouam was selected as one of the 750 recipients of The Gates Scholarship. Recipients receive funding for the full cost of attendance not already covered by other financial aid and the expected family contribution, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or the methodology used by a college or university.

The scholarship covers the entire cost of attendance including tuition, fees, room, board, books, transportation and may include other personal expenses.

“I was working on my computer, and my mom came into my room and started dancing and I’m wondering what is going on,” he says. “She tells me to check my email, and that’s when I found out.”

The life-changing scholarship means a lot to Tatchim Kouam as it allows him the luxury of being able to focus solely on his studies.

“If I didn’t have the scholarship, I would probably have to be working on top of going to school and needing to worry about loans in the future.”

With the added free time, Tatchim Kouam may look into pursuing theater while at UT Austin as it produced some of his favorite memories over the years while at Singley Academy.

“Freshman year, my theater teacher told me that I would make a great actor. I was a little apprehensive, but decided to give it a shot,” he recalls. 

The first show he was a part of was a murder mystery dinner show, something the school had never done before. He and another student would take turns alternating who would play one of the main roles. Prior to opening night, the other student dropped out of the cast, and Tatchim Kouam had no choice but to be the star of all four shows.

“I came in and learned my lines, and when all was said and done, I was like ‘Wow, I actually really like this!’”

Since then, Tatchim Kouam has participated in various different shows and has had a lot of fun along the way.

“The most rewarding part of being in theater is the people you meet,” says Tatchim Kouam. “It’s just like a big family, we all just try to have fun acting and being goofy.”

As his senior year draws to a close, Tatchim Kouam would like to encourage next year’s seniors to start working on their college essays during the summer.

“I knew I was going to have to write the essays eventually,” says Tatchim Kouam. “But once school started, I got a bunch of assignments on top of applying for scholarships and everything else. It’s a lot to worry about.”

Tatchim Kouam recommends that students have a few essays at their disposal so they can submit them for various scholarship applications that come along, regardless of the amount.

“Eventually, it all stacks up!” he says.

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