Thien Nguyen graduated in December 2019 from Northeastern University with a degree in computer science. He’s studied abroad twice — once in Sweden and once in Australia — and he’s already got a job working for one of the coolest companies in the tech world: Spotify. Recently, Spotify released a new feature that 22-year-old Thien developed: a way to personalize your Spotify playlist with original art. “A feature I wrote was rolled out to millions of users,” Thien says. “That’s freaking awesome. MESA really laid that foundation for me.” That foundation saw Thien building windmills and trebuchets at Ockley Green Middle School’s Oregon MESA program just a few years after his family immigrated to Portland. With his MESA teammates he took these projects to state and national competitions and found a way to build skills and confidence outside the middle school classroom. Thien credits the Oregon MESA push with helping him thrive at Lincoln High School where he applied himself to his studies, pulled good grades, and upon graduated juggled a number of college scholarship offers. He chose Northeastern in the end for its strong cybersecurity program. During high school, he served as an Oregon MESA intern as a way to stay involved in the program that he says gave him an edge in math and science that he still leans on. “It helped me nurture that confidence. Even with things go crazy, I know I’m sticking with it and I will make it happen,” Thien says. Once he graduates, he’ll continue working at Spotify and building features that will find their way to millions of users. Freaking awesome.