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Against all Odds, Student Realizes Dream of Becoming a Computer Engineer

June 29, 2016

Jeremiah Tate And Family

Support System: Family, friends, and former teachers/mentors celebrate Jeremiah Tate’s attainment of a college degree during Rose-Hulman’s commencement May 28.

There are stories behind each of Rose-Hulman’s Class of 2016 graduates, and one that is especially inspiring is the journey Jeremiah Tate took to realize his dream of becoming a computer engineer.

Growing up in Indianapolis’ inner city, Tate had several strikes against him: a mother who was incarcerated for most of his high school years; a father who was mostly absent from his life; and his position as the youngest of five siblings—none of whom graduated from high school.

Tate’s grandparents raised him while holding down jobs, doing their best to be supportive. Classes and after-school activities at nearby Fall Creek Academy charter school provided a sanctuary where mentors and teachers encouraged his interests in science, math, and, eventually, engineering.

“An eighth-grade aptitude test indicated that I might have the skills to become an engineer. I didn’t even know what an engineer was,” says Tate, laughing while recalling the memory. “I really liked coming up with the right answers for a math problem. Some people are into sports. Some are into music. I liked using my mind to see how things worked.”

Middle school teacher Keri Arthurton gave Tate extra math and science homework assignments, and put him on an accelerated path through school. Then, in 2011, he joined students from across the nation at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to research aspects of World War II’s D-Day Invasion of Normandy. Afterward, the group traveled to France to actually walk in the footsteps of the brave allied soldiers.

“The opportunity to not only experience European culture, but also to be around other highly motivated students from around the country gave Jeremiah a new world view that also instilled added confidence that he could compete with the very best students anywhere,” says David Wheeler, an Indianapolis high school history teacher who encouraged Tate to apply to Rose-Hulman at the age of 16.

Four years later, Tate became the first member of his family to graduate from college. He’s now well on his way toward a career as a computer architect at Intel Corporation, working on the team that’s developing multicore processors for supercomputers that are used to help researchers find a cure for cancer and solve other complex problems.

“Every day has been both exciting and challenging,” he says from Intel’s Portland, Oregon, offices. “It feels great to be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about solving problems as I am. Our group has some pretty cool projects in the works and I am truly thankful to be a part of it.”

Now Tate hopes to inspire others to follow his path. Only five percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer engineering are earned by African-Americans, according to the 2016 African Americans College Majors & Earning Report.

“Being able to draw on varied experiences and perspectives of those from various backgrounds gives rise to great solutions,” Tate says. “Now, I have nieces and nephews who are looking up to me. I don’t want them to be in the same situation that I was in, where I was looking for someone who was doing it right…Instead, I want to be the person to come up to them and say ‘Yes, you can do this.’”

One of his own mentors, GEO Foundation president and Fall Creek Academy founder Kevin Teasley remarks, “It takes a lot of maturity and personal drive for someone with Jeremiah’s background to succeed. Education provided the vehicle for him to aspire higher. Jeremiah did all of the hard work. Now, he’s reaping all of the rewards, and everyone who touched him along this journey couldn’t be more proud.”