Zanele Mutepfa:  “The death of my parents has made me who I am — a stronger person, able to endure more things. It used to be something I couldn’t talk about without crying. Now I share it because I feel as if I can strengthen
Zanele Mutepfa: “The death of my parents has made me who I am — a stronger person, able to endure more things. It used to be something I couldn’t talk about without crying. Now I share it because I feel as if I can strengthen

Zanele Mutepfa, senior
Lincoln High School

Family: Dr. Paul and Maiya Thomas, parents; four older brothers; three older sisters; brother, junior at Lincoln; seventh-grade brother at East-West Sylvan Middle School. Lives in Southwest Portland.

Background. Born in Zimbabwe. Father died of cancer in 1997. Moved with mother and three siblings to New Hampshire in 2000. In 2003, lost mother, who had been raised in Zimbabwe under the guardianship of an American missionary family after her parents died. Moved to Portland in 2004 when adopted into family of Dr. Paul Thomas, eldest son of her mother’s missionary family. Became U.S. citizen in 2008.

Rose Festival Court: I was telling my mom I felt as if I didn’t deserve to be on the Lincoln Court because there are girls who have been waiting since they were 7 to be a part of this. I just moved here six years ago. She, along with other people, just said: “Who’s to say who deserves to be a part of Rose Festival? All you have to be is a good person, want the best for everybody besides yourself and have gone through enough to be able to determine doing the right thing or this is not so much of the right thing to do. They’re like, you fit all those criteria, so why wouldn’t you be a part of that?”

What a teacher: Mike Sweeney, who teaches African-American studies, area studies, International Baccalaureate anthropology, brings all different kinds of perspectives to class. He knows that a teacher teaches character, teaches self-respect, and there’s a bond between a teacher and a student.

Family history: It’s made me who I am — a stronger person, able to endure more things. It used to be something I couldn’t talk about without crying. Now I share it because I feel as if I can strengthen the person beside me. It is a sad story, but I don’t have to live in it as a sad story.