Not all college hopefuls wait until their senior year of high school to pick a university to attend. One Spokane boy, with eight more years of primary and secondary school ahead of him, has already made up his mind: he will be an Eagle!

Justin Hawkes is in the fourth grade at Sheridan Elementary School in Spokane. Like all school kids during the COVID-19 pandemic, he is currently doing his schoolwork from home. For a recent writing assignment, he decided, on his own accord says his mother, to pen a letter to Eastern Washington University.

“I was doing my writing time and I was thinking about wanting to go to Eastern,” says the 10-year-old. “It was my first week of doing school at home because of coronavirus, so I decided to write a letter to EWU.”

In the letter, Justin wrote that he has always wanted to go to Eastern, explaining that both of his parents attended EWU. Justin wants to be an astronaut and work for NASA someday, and says that he plans to start by studying science at Eastern.

“I would LOVE to study in your science classrooms because I LOVE space,” he wrote. “I am working hard in school so I can go to college.”

Justin’s mom, Sarah Hawkes ‘06, confirms that she and Justin’s dad, Gary Hawkes ‘05, did attend Eastern—it’s where they met. So, you might say Justin is destined to become an Eagle. He’s been wearing Eastern gear and attending football and basketball games since he was a baby.

Justin Hawkes representing EWU as a baby.
With Swoop at an EWU football game (brother Brandon, mom Sarah and Justin).

Eastern staff members say they were thrilled to see Justin’s letter arrive at a time filled with so much bad news and uncertainty.

“RECEIVED and I LOVE IT!” wrote Samantha Armstrong Ash, dean of students at EWU, in an email exchange with Sarah after receiving Justin’s letter. “Thank you for sharing—this truly brightened our week!”

Armstrong Ash decided to send Justin an EWU care package in response. It contained a handwritten card, a baby Swoop, an EWU pencil case and some Eastern stickers.

“I was super happy and very surprised,” says Justin. “I love the eagle and my new pencil case. I can’t wait to bring it to school. I am using it at home too.”

“Your kindness and words mean so much to not only Justin, but myself as well,” Sarah adds. “He is floating on cloud 9 right now!”

Sarah also says the gift solidifies Justin’s dreams of becoming an Eag. Justin seems pretty set on the idea and is even recruiting other family members.

“Me and my brother both hope we get to go there someday,” he says.