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Flash Forward Alumni Spotlight: Youcef Bennour

  • Alumni Spotlight
Flash Forward Alumni Spotlight: Youcef Bennour

Committed to Community: FWHS alumni Yucef attributes his success to hope and community. 

The thing that I’m so thankful for to the Federal Way school district and Federal Way High School is making you believe. I was able to believe. I think that hope, that belief was the big thing. 


Youcef Bennour 
Federal Way High School, Class of 2014 
University of Washington Tacoma, Class of 2018 

Youcef Bennour was born in Washington State where he lived until the age of six, before hatred towards his family following 9/11 prompted a return to his home country of Algeria. There, Youcef connected to his roots, absorbing culture, language, and education. But when the local school system began to fail, his parents, who are both educators, decided to return to the States, and at fourteen, Youcef enrolled at Federal Way High School. Despite the absence of English language skills, he pushed himself into mastery – in English, academics, leadership, and advocacy. His tenacity landed him a high G.P.A. and numerous scholarships to attend UW Tacoma. Now, as a software engineer at Expedia, Youcef’s life goals are to make an impact on others and inspire students like himself to dream bigger, find their community, and have hope to reach their goals. 

FWPS: What was your experience at Federal Way High School? 

Youcef: I started off as an ESL (English as a Second Language) student because I didn’t speak English. It was really hard. The only word I knew how to say was “hi.” But, I’ve always been a hard worker and I pride myself in my hard work. I knew I wanted to get out of ESL classes, so I made the point to study extra hours at the library to work on my English and get comfortable going up to people and just talking. Within a year, I was able to make it out and was taking regular classes, which I was super proud of. My second year I took regular classes. My third I took Cambridge English. By my last year, I was taking College Writing with Ms. Ashe – I loved that class.  

I started off with no English to getting a 3.9 (G.P.A.) with scholarships to go to UW Tacoma. 


FWPS: What kind of programs and activities were you part of in high school? 

Youcef: I was part of the AVID program, and that was able to open up the door for me to really understand what a scholarship is, how to apply for colleges, and what career fairs are. Before AVID, I didn’t even know what college was or that you needed to apply for scholarships.  

Also, one of my passions has always been advocating for the community, and there were folks that were doing that, so I joined them.  


FWPS: What prompted you to get involved and explore different activities and opportunities? 

Youcef: I think the teachers. I had amazing teachers that were there for me since day one. They really paved the way for me to start believing in myself, start looking at my capacity, and make the best that I can possibly make. Like Ms. Ashe, she was always there for me.  

The second thing was a chance to build community. When I came to [FWHS], there weren’t a lot of people that looked like me or came from the same walk of life that I came from. I thought, “how can I identify with people that are different than me in so many ways, but are similar to me, too? You have people coming from all walks of life. The most important part is building community, and that community doesn’t mean people that look like me. They can be people that are different than me, but that I can identify with when I talk about specific issues. 


FWPS: You went to UW Tacoma, right? What was your experience there? 

Youcef: When I went to my first class, they were like, “pull up the laptop and let’s write some code.” Everyone was able to do everything. I thought, “Am I misplaced?” That was the first time where I honestly doubted myself. I was slow. But, I just had to trust myself and believe I could make it happen. It was a hard couple of quarters. It wasn’t until I got my internship that I saw the power of what I was learning in the classroom apply to real projects. At the end of the day, I had so many people that believed in me – people that I didn’t want to let down, and I knew the trajectory of what I was doing was going to change my parents' life. 


FWPS: What jobs have you held since college? 

Youcef: My first job right out of college was at T-Mobile. I was able to learn about that job through one of my connections. I had an amazing mentor who connected me to T-Mobile and helped me get the skills. I was able to join the rotational program for 18 months where I got to rotate through different departments within the company, more on the tech side. I stayed there for four years. Now I work at Expedia as a Software Engineer under their Marketing department. That transition was a little different – I had recruiters reaching out to me because I proved myself and was able to do the work. Now I want to move more into managing and working with people, because that’s one thing that I’m passionate about. 


FWPS: What advice would you give current FWPS students? 

Youcef: It’s important to be part of a community and to build up that community. We all have the same G.P.A., the same credentials – but what really distinguishes one person from another is the social aspect. It’s about the network. It’s about the people you connect with because those are the people that can help you long-term.  

As a software engineer, I’m probably not the smartest. I’m probably not the hardest worker. But there’s networking, how to talk to and connect with people – those are the skills that make me the person and the candidate I am today, and those are the skills that can help you too. 


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