The City of Ate Interview: Atti Worku, a Former Miss Ethiopia and Host of a Benefit Dinner at Bolsa Mercado Next Week
Atti Worku was born and raised in Adama, Ethiopia, where at an early age she noticed a distinct difference in her private school education and those in the public school system.
During college Worku began modeling and competing in beauty pageants, and in 2005 was crowned Miss Ethiopia. Shortly afterward, she made a trip to Dallas where she met with the Campbell Agency and signed a modeling contract. With a bit of career success in hand, Worku founded Seeds of Africa, a non-profit that strives to create education and community development in her hometown.
Next week Atti, along with local restaurateur Royce Ring, is hosting a dinner at Bolsa Mercado to raise awareness and money for Seeds. Recently I got the chance to chat with the former Miss Ethiopia about her foundation and, of course, food.
What's your connection to Dallas?
After winning the crown for Miss Ethiopia, I came to Dallas to visit my brother who was a student at UTA at the time. While I was here I met with the Campbell Agency and signed a modeling contract with them. I lived in Dallas for several years before moving to New York City.
Did you move to NYC for work or school?
Both. I did sign a modeling contract in New York City, but also always knew I wanted to go back to school. When I was in Ethiopia I studied computer science, but then I got into modeling and beauty pageants and that sort of took on its own life. I wasn't expecting it to go to the level that it did. Finally in 2010, I decided it was time, so I applied to Columbia and started in 2011.
What are you studying?
Are you studying for finals right now?
Yes, and trying to finish a paper.
What's it about?
Then Harlem Renaissance.
After beauty pageants and modeling, how do you like being back in school?
I love being a student. It was difficult at first to adjust and have the discipline to be in a library for 8 to 10 hours at a time, but I really enjoy it now because it's directly related to my work in Ethiopia. My work and school blend into each other, so it makes it more interesting.
What made you want to start Seeds?
Growing up in Ethiopia, early on I understood the differences between the education I was receiving at a private catholic school versus the children in the public school system. I always knew change had to be permanent. Unfortunately aid doesn't always provide a permanent solution. People talk about the vicious cycle of poverty because it really is a complex issue. I understood that there are multiple things that need to be done. One of those things is building human capital and providing education can do that.