People of SU / Science / Technology and Health

Graduate Spotlight: Awa Sonko, Future Anesthesiologist

Written by Lincoln Vander Veen

June 1, 2023

Photo featuring 2023 Nursing Graduate

2023 College of Nursing grad finds community and support in and out of the classroom. 

After arriving in Seattle five years ago from Gambia, Awa Sonko, ’23, will achieve a major milestone when she graduates this June with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. A recipient of the Sara M. Hughes Pediatric Oncology Scholarship, Sonko came to Seattle with her mother and younger siblings to reunite with her father who already moved here.

Sonko gravitated to the College of Nursing as she “liked the idea of being molded into a person helping make a ‘just and humane world’ as SU’s Jesuit and Catholic education calls for. Small class sizes were important, too.”

Once she arrived in the city in 2018, she was also struck by its natural beauty. Just as she thought she was beginning to understand “the whole system” of the city—neighborhoods, culture, government, education—and build relationships with her peers and neighbors, COVID-19 hit and the city was in lockdown. Knowing how vital health care workers were during this time, and the hands-on nature of her learning in the College of Nursing, Sonko knew she had to adapt quickly.

As things were shifting increasingly to online, Sonko worked overtime to understand how to use all the tech tools that would enable her to continue her education uninterrupted. And she leaned on her SU professors to help her transition to this new reality. This network of support is something Sonko is eternally grateful for.

“SU professors really care for their students. I thought a college education was ‘come to class and go home’ and that’s it. I was pleasantly surprised with the comprehensive support I received,” Sonko says. “It played an integral role in my success.”

This summer she will engage in her nursing practicum through Seattle University and its partners, shadowing a nurse in a clinical setting in pediatrics, intensive care or emergency care at Seattle Children's. This fall, she will take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), an examination for those who want to work as an RN. Ultimately, Sonko aspires to become an anesthesiologist in the region.

When asked to reflect on her favorite things about Seattle, she quickly mentions the food. There’s so much variety, she explains, especially good African food, bringing back memories of home. 

“But my go-to is Carmelo’s Tacos. That’s the best.”

This is the first in a series spotlighting SU graduates from the Class of 2023 who will be celebrated at the undergraduate and graduate Commencement ceremonies, June 12 at Climate Pledge Arena.