From their first meeting in 2002, Blaine high school guidance counselor Karen Mulholland said she noticed one thing about Blaine high school student Tegan Bukowski: focus.
“She is exceptional in her focus on school and her future,” Mulholland said.
Much more can be said about the now-22-year-old Blaine high school graduate. She recently graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a double major in architecture and environmental studies. She has started two nonprofit organizations in Africa. She will attend Yale University in the fall for a dual master’s degree in architecture and environmental management.
Despite these far-reaching achievements, Bukowski maintains an appreciation for her early education. She said in an e-mail, [she is currently in Kenya], that attending Blaine high school was the best experience she could have had.
Mulholland said she met Bukowski as a freshman in 2002. Bukowski stood out as unique from the first time they met, Mulholland said. Bukowski had just moved from Arizona, and Mulholland said she could tell Bukowski was determined to make it in Blaine.
Mulholland and Blaine residents Gary and Kerry Clausen were the only reason Bukowski said she stayed in Blaine during a family crisis in her sophomore year of high school. In addition to the help Mulholland and the Clausens provided, Bukowski said the entire Blaine community was incredibly supportive.
Mulholland said she was most impressed with Bukowski when she asked for her help during her family crisis. Bukowski always valued adult input, said Mulholland, who became friends with Bukowski and remains in contact to this day.
“She wanted adult supervision, instead of avoiding it,” Mulholland said.
Mulholland said one of Bukowski’s attributes that stood out most was her intense drive. From numerous scholarships to volunteer opportunities, Mulholland said Bukowski would always tenaciously seek the opportunities she wanted for herself.
“It’s real affirming to teachers to have a student like that,” Mulholland said.
Not only did the people of Blaine affect Bukowski’s future, the very landscape of the Pacific Northwest influenced her desire to integrate architecture and the environment in a sustainable way. The Mango Tree Project, one of the two nonprofits she started in Africa, is focused on developing an environmentally friendly energy plan for an orphanage in Rwanda.
Bukowski attributes her love of the outdoors to how she and her mother lived for eight years.
“The fact that we lived on our boat all over the Puget Sound gave me an appreciation of the pristine,” she said.
Bukowski said she and her mom came upon the idea of living on a boat while stopped in Olympia on their way from Wyoming to California. While in Olympia, Bukowski said she randomly suggested to her mom that they live on a boat; and they did it. After living in numerous marinas in Puget Sound, she said they ended up in Blaine after returning from Alaska.
Africa found its way into Bukowski’s heart after a trip to Uganda when she was a junior in high school. While in the Air Force Academy, which she left after she decided she wanted to be an architect, Bukowski was invited to be a delegate to a conference called “Building the Bridge Between War and Peace.”
At the conference she met the head of the Institute for Global Leadership in Boston and a Tufts University student, which resulted in the eventual development of the Mango Tree Project. The project went to Rwanda last year to redesign the energy system for the 500-person Agahozo Shalom Youth Village.
This summer brings Bukowski to Kenya where she will be teaching a children’s photography workshop in the Kibera slums. Standing in the way of mastering Swahili and maintaining her French, in addition to her other future accomplishments, is time.“There are a million things I want to fit into every day, but I have to remember that I have to sleep and relax sometime,” she said.