Submitted by Northwest Christian Private Schools
Merissa Tatum is a 2006 graduate of Northwest Christian High School (NCHS) and a 2010 graduate of the University of Washington. Ms. Tatum now serves as the Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Washington where she oversees the work of several admissions employees.
Born in Tacoma, and raised in Olympia, Merissa is the product of a single-parent, low-income household, however she considers herself extremely blessed. From a very early age, her grandmother taught her that success could be achieved through hard work and by obtaining a good education. With her faith and her family as a constant motivation, Merissa persevered and became the first in her family to earn a college degree. She received her B.A. from the UW in 2010, then continued on to earn her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the UW in 2013. Education is a vital part to who she is, and she will one day work to obtain her doctoral degree. Long term, Merissa aspires to reach a Sr. Vice President level at the University of Washington, establishing progressive policy changes for the undergraduate student body.
Prior to attending NCHS, Merissa attended Community Christian Academy (CCA), part of the Northwest Christian Private Schools for 8th grade. She has fond memories of CCA and in particular Mr. Graham as the principal. At NCHS, Merissa focused on academics all four years of high school but also found time to play three years of volleyball and basketball. In addition, Merissa was a student class officer each year and served as ASB President her senior year.
One of the classes at NCHS that really had an impact on Merissa was Outreach. She appreciated the opportunity to help provide service to diverse groups in our community and felt that Outreach helped prepare her for the admissions job at the University of Washington. Merissa also mentioned that her Bible classes at NCHS helped her keep her faith strong during the college years.
Merissa gives a lot of credit to her grandmother and also to NCHS staff for helping her reach her college and career goals. She told us that “It was not an option for her not to go to college”. Her grandmother was committed to finding the best education possible for Merissa. Merissa was the first in her family to attend college.
Merissa was quick to give credit to other teachers who helped her along the way as well. She specifically mentioned and really appreciated the help of NCHS science teacher Michelle Whittaker. Mrs. Whittaker was Merissa’s science teacher but also helped Merissa with the college admissions process. Merissa was accepted to Duke University among other schools but decided that the University of Washington was more in line with her interests and her major.
During her undergraduate days at the University of Washington, Merissa was one of only two people (out of 200 applicants) to be selected for an internship in the Admissions Office at the University of Washington. After graduation, Merissa was hired as a University employee in Admissions and now supervises several University admission recruiters.
Marissa teaches dance and exercise classes in her spare time and is active in her church community. She lists the Bible as her favorite book on her university biography. As far as future career plans are concerned, Merissa plans to pursue her doctorate degree and continue helping prospective and current University of Washington students reach their dreams.
When asked what she loves most about her job, Merissa replied, “I love helping students pursue their dreams of going to college. Regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, or if they’re first generation: all students should have access to higher education. Seeing them go from high school through the application process to having them join us on campus the following fall… makes my job worthwhile. I have an obligation to give back to my community, paving the way for the next generation to come.”