Wikimedia Commons; Zoe Berg, Photo Editor

It’s been months since Samuel Getachew ’25 penned an essay on “the Problem with Euphoria” for his English 120 class. Since then, Getachew’s essay has garnered recognition across campus, landed in Vogue and helped the first-year spoken word poet cement a new identity as a writer.

Getachew began his essay as a required assignment for his class with professor James Surowiecki, former New Yorker columnist and current faculty member of the Yale English department. The assignment was to write an essay that critiqued some aspects of modern culture. 

“It was a really sharp reading of the show,” Surowiecki said of the essay. “It had a clear, distinctive thesis, and he did a great job of weaving his own experience and the experiences of his classmates into the analysis.”

Beyond its worldwide recognition in Vogue, Getachew’s article is distinctive in the pivotal role it plays in furthering his identity as a writer. The essay is Getachew’s first published apolitical piece. 

“I was terrified of being pigeon-holed into being a writer that could only write about race,” Getachew said. “It was starting to feel that I could only be taken seriously if I marketed myself as a Black writer. My early work that received recognition all centered around racial themes. To still see this apolitical piece be received and recognized by the community was such a big moment for me. I finally reassured myself.” 

Getachew’s first publication was in the opinion section of the New York Times print edition when he was 16 years old. This piece was titled “21 Savage and the Way We See Black Immigrants.” He continued writing for the Times, writing another work titled  “Black Valedictorians and the Toxic Trope of Black Exceptionalism,”centered around the inequity that stems from sensationalizing Black academic success stories. This article argued that this trope often distracts from the deeper segregational issues which still pervade modern education.  

The New York Times piece was Getachew’s first major publication. Pitched to multiple organizations, Getachew said that it took multiple attempts to get the Times to follow through with publication. The paper responded only after a period of silence, finally deciding to publish his submission. 

“That was the biggest lesson for me,” Getachew said. “To new writers, don’t be afraid to be annoying or persistent, you have to get to a point where you separate your emotions from the way others treat your work. For every one hundred no’s, all you need is one yes!”

Getachew’s success as a writer stems from his background in spoken-word poetry, which he first began at the age of 14. Fueled by an innate desire to connect and encourage others through his literary engagement, Getachew considers human impact to be his proudest achievement. 

In high school, he facilitated monthly open mics for fellow teenagers to share their work. 

“A girl came up to me after one of the sessions to tell me that was the first time she had ever publicly read her writing,” Getachew said. “She told me she was inspired by a performance I had given a few years prior. For me, this will always be the most important part of what I do as a writer.”

Getachew’s voice plays a distinctive role on Yale’s campus as well, as he currently performs as a member of Word, Yale’s oldest spoken word poetry group. Getachew’s background in spoken-word boasts Grand Champion awards in the Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam for 2017, 2018 and 2019. 

At Yale, Getachew’s friends, teachers and fellow students remark on his distinctive authorial voice. 

“When Samuel talks about his writing, he is confident in his value and in its worth because he is so precise and meticulous about every word he chooses and every point he seeks to make,” one of Getachew’s close friends, Tess Levy ’25, told the News. “He knows when he writes something spectacular because it doesn’t happen by accident, he dedicates himself to it.” 

Surowiecki, Getachew’s English 120 professor, pushed him to publish the Euphoria essay. 

Surowiecki commented on Samuel’s distinctive literary voice, describing it as clear and “brimming with sentences which stick into the corners of your mind.” 

“He also has a sophisticated sense of the emotional complexity of people and social situations, and the ways in which social norms and technologies shape people’s behavior,” Surowiecki told the News. “I don’t how to say it better than that his work feels like the work of someone who’s a writer.”

Getachew said he hopes to continue publishing work this year, and is currently working on new writing. 

He added that, as a freelance writer, he is used to rejection, as only a small portion of his pitches receive responses from publishers, and even fewer of those pitches actually turn into published pieces. Still, he said that he tries to not take the rejections personally and that he recognizes the freelance industry is a “brutal world.” 

“Last year around this time, I wrote down a list of dreams I wanted to accomplish,” Getachew said. “One of them was to write for Vogue. Here we are a year later and I could not be more excited.”  

Samuel Getachew is the youngest-ever opinion writer to be published in print in the New York Times.

Correction, Feb. 13: A previous version of this article misnamed Getachew’s initial publication, this article has been corrected to reflect his first publication was in fact “21 Savage and the Way We See Black Immigrants.”

Alessia Degraeve covered student culture. She is an English major in the Saybrook College class of 2025.