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Ahmed Kunate wants to be a part of the future of AI
Clear Creek Amana High grad, from Ghana, plans computer science career
TIFFIN — Ahmed Kunate wants to be a part of the future of artificial intelligence.
Kunate, 18, is planning to attend Kirkwood Community College to study computer science before completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa.
“Technology is advancing,” he said. “I like the idea of automating tasks. I can tell the (artificial intelligence) my goal and let it help me write code to create a website, for example.”
Kunate is one of 150 students who graduated Friday from Clear Creek Amana High School. He’s excited about college and the next stage of his life, but he also will miss friends he’s made at the school, he said.
Last year, Kunate joined the soccer team as a way to spend more time with his friends and “pass the time,” he said. His coach, Tim Benson, taught him good sportsmanship and how to uplift his teammates, Kunate said.
Benson said Kunate is “respectful” to everyone he encounters and is always in a good mood. “He’s a pleasure to be around,” he said.
Gabbie McDermott taught Kunate in her English Language Learner class at Clear Creek Amana middle and high school for three years. “Talk about a dream student,” she said. “He was engaged and genuinely interested in learning. He would always ask good questions, was an incredibly sweet person and demonstrated that he really cared about his classmates.”
Kunate was always willing to help his peers, McDermott said, and he had a “goofy” sense of humor “always making me and his classmates laugh.”
Kunate’s parents moved to Iowa from Ghana in 2012 to get established before moving their children — Kunate and his three siblings — to the United States with them. The children lived with their aunt in Ghana before joining their parents to Iowa in 2016, when Kunate was about 10.
“It was hard,” said Kunate, who said he relied heavily on his friends in Ghana after his parents moved. “I will never forget the people who lifted me up during my low times,” he said.
McDermott said stories like Kunate’s are pretty common for students in English Language Learner programs.
About 20 percent of students in the Clear Creek Amana Community School District are students of color, according to U.S. News and World report. McDermott said many of those students are in English Language Learner classrooms like hers.
“It’s important to me to build strong relationships with my students,” McDermott said. “We’re like a little family. The students would argue like siblings, and also have each other’s backs.”
Kunate has an “analytical” mind, which will benefit him in the computer science industry, McDermott said. She recalled Kunate bringing to class Rubik’s Cubes — 3D combination puzzles — that he would solve “so quickly.” He also frequently would play a competitive typing game. The faster he typed, the faster a racecar would go, she said.
“I was always amazed because his fingers were flying across the keyboard,” McDermott said.
Computer science is a “fascinating” career field that is “rapidly evolving,” McDermott said. “Ahmed has the adaptability that would set him up for success in a field in a state of transition,” she said.
McDermott said she has “so many good memories” of having Kunate in her classroom. “It makes me smile to think about,” she said.
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