Around the Institute

Catching Up with Youth Commissioner on Social, Emotional, & Academic Development Michael Degaga

March 7, 2018  • Michael Degaga

We recently caught up with Youth Commissioner Michael Degaga to hear how his first semester at the George Washington University went.


The Youth Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development is a cohort of 18 young people ages 14-24 appointed for a two-year term advising the Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, & Academic Development. Since the beginning of their terms, the youngest commissioner is now a Junior in high school, while many are in college or recent college graduates. These young leaders are working to re-envision what constitutes success in America’s PreK-12 schools. By engaging educators, families, community leaders, researchers, and policymakers in communities across the country, the Commission is exploring how schools can fully integrate social, emotional, and academic development in order to help students succeed in school, career, and life.

Tell us about your first semester of college.

My first semester of college went well. I primarily took math and science classes along with their corresponding laboratory sections. I particularly enjoyed my biology class. I have been intentionally inactive with regards to extracurricular involvement so that I could  first adjust to college academic rigor. However, I am part of the Ethio – Eritrean Student Association, and have attended a few events.

What new projects or activities have you gotten involved in?

I’m currently working on an Ethiopian history channel through social media, starting with an Instagram page for sharing pivotal moments in Ethiopian history. I hope to expand to YouTube for sharing longer and more detailed videos about Ethiopian history.

As an Ethiopian, I have always been interested in how the country evolved over its long history. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed history classes I’ve taken at school. I realized that there were many achievements, both during war-time and peace, in Ethiopian history that the current generation of Ethiopians can appreciate and learn from. However, some of our history is neglected, and its significance undermined.

I planned on starting an Ethiopian history page with the hope of reminding Ethiopians of the great feats achieved by their country in the past, how citizens of different ethnicity and religions had come together to defend national sovereignty, and how fateful mistakes have cost the country. My ultimate goal with the Instagram page and a possible YouTube channel is to impart strong nationalistic spirit on Ethiopians and the greater Habesha community. I plan on sharing an objective analysis of Ethiopian history that can be studied for the development of a stronger and more united Ethiopia.

Follow my journey through Ethiopian history on Instagram @historybookethiopia!

Have you picked up any new books, TV shows, etc. recently?

I’m reading two books about Ethiopian history: one about a period called “the Era of Princes” and the other about an Ethiopian emperor who reigned during the late 19th Century. I also plan to read a research paper about immune-therapy for cancer by a researcher at the GW Institute of Biomedical Studies.

Who or what are you finding inspiration in currently?

I am finding inspiration in my family. I understand how having strong family relationships is extremely important for one’s mental and physical well-being. I also believe that family is the only source of untainted advice for a successful life. Consequently, I also take keen interests in studying the lives of my older family members.