Recent UW grad shares how local businesses opened doors of access and opportunity for him

By: Kathryn Robertson Posted: 10/24/2017

Coven: “Your investment, your change, and your support truly does matter.”

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A strong education system and a talent pipeline that connects local people with the opportunities local employers generate are top priorities for the Seattle Metro Chamber. At our 135th Annual Meeting this September, recent University of Washington graduate David Coven shared a personal perspective on the contributions businesses can make to this pipeline. Coven gave a moving speech about his path from homelessness to a degree in mechanical engineering, and the support that area businesses gave him throughout his remarkable journey.

Full transcription of David’s remarks:

Good afternoon and welcome. My name is David Coven. I’m a recent graduate of the University of Washington, and I’m so excited to be here. I was here working with the Chamber a few months ago at their first Education Workshop, dedicated and focused on career connected learning for young people- access to opportunities that each of you are helping provide and create.

I wanted to give you a glimpse into the young person, and the students that you get to support and you’re working to help every single day. So, like I said my name is David Coven, I just graduated from the UW, but my story starts a few years earlier in the Central District of Seattle not that far from here.

At 14, I was just like every other high school student getting ready for my big dreams, studying, having fun with friends. I grew up as the youngest of four children in a single-parent household. We didn’t have much, but we had each other.

At 15, financial difficulties started to mount. And by the end of my sophomore year we lost the house, and I was homeless. For months, I bounced around from friend to friend trying to figure out what I was going to do with life. And I found my access, my opportunity, my transformation in the form of a teacher-- he took me in physically, removed me from my circumstances, and told me I could do something with my life.

At 16, I applied to the University of Washington under his direction.

At 17, I decided to do mechanical engineering.

At 18, I enrolled into the UW.

And just a few months ago, I’m happy to say, I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.

And that’s just the beginning. Through my time at the University of Washington, I got to work with businesses just like yours, as they opened doors of access and opportunity. Myself and my cousin have done about 8 internships apiece. I got to be at Boeing for three summers straight, I got to build electric cars at Tesla, we led the UW Hyperloop team through transportation innovation. And we did this all because people just like you chose to take an interest in students like us.

These companies, when they got us, they didn’t expect us to know anything. They only expected us to make a change for ourselves. So, as you look at the opportunities you’re building I, want you to know that you’re not investing in one single person, but rather the community that stands behind the students.

I got to put my mom in better housing, I got to help my older sisters who never had the opportunity of college get first cars, and I got to be here to show you that your investment, your change, and your support truly does matter. I want to thank each and every one of you for the change that you create, the resources you support.

I want to thank the Chamber for having this amazing event and having all these wonderful members

And lastly, I want to thank the businesses who are here every day to build Seattle into a better place to work and live for students who you may never meet, but whose lives I guarantee you will change forever.

Thank you.