Haring Center

4. Zelalem “Zee” Yilma

Nov. 25, 1951- Oct. 16, 2012

The most appropriate word to describe Zee’s influence on the Haring Center is “Mother”.

The personification of inclusion, Zee brought a familial element to the Experimental Education Unit (EEU) that spilled over into all of the Haring Center’s programs. Haring Center pioneers conducted studies, started support groups and published methods detailing the increased family and community involvement positively influencing child outcomes and Zee brought these efforts into the everyday life at the EEU.

Throughout her 22 years at the EEU, Zee was famous for her compassion, empathy, and her all-encompassing hugs.

Throughout her 22 years at the EEU, Zee was famous for her comp assion, empathy, and her all-encompassing hugs. Simply put, anyone Zee met was immediately a member of her family. She made everyone who enter ed the building feel right at home. Although her title was the EEU sch ool secretary, Zee was truly the “heart of the unit”. She welcomed every chil d and parent with a hug and a smile. Zee worked with teachers, parents, Seat tle Public Schools officials, social workers, bus drivers, Seattle community leaders and after-school programs to make sure that every EEU student received as much help as po ssible. She assured that all who had contact with a child knew how their job fit into an Individu al Education Plan so continuity of services never broke.

Zee acted as an advocate for the EEU and for immigrant communities helping those from various cultures access services. As such, she kept the EEU staff informed of what services each family and child needed to achieve the best possible outcome. Her concern extended to families who left the EEU. She would often aid in the navigation of the public school system, advocate for a placement in a specialty school and facilitate the matching of childcare professionals and tutors for students in need.

Zee’s legacy is alive and well the Haring Center today. Our leadership team still remember her and think “What would Zee do?” when making important program decisions.

Zee’s generosity was not limited to educational pursuits. She donated her time and resources to bettering the lives of the EEU community through cooking, transportation and even inviting EEU families into her home.

Zee’s approach to inclusion was personal. Her children and grandchildrenattended preschool at the EEU. When her children grew, they worked in the EEU summer camp.

Zee’s legacy is alive and well the Haring Center today. Our leadership team still remembers her and think “What would Zee do?” when making important program decisions. The staff at the EEU adopted her modus operandi that inclusion requires extra effort, but it is worthwhile so that everyone feels at home.