West High Alumni Leaving His Mark on the World: The story of Hunter Kieth

Jump into Hunter Kieths amazing experiences around the Middle East.

At West, Keith was a brilliant student, spending lots of time in the Debate and Journalism room.“Between Debate and Newspaper that was basically my whole life at that point.” Keith says. Hunter was on the top policy debate team and he went all over the country for debate. But not only was Keith smart, he was also a good person. On debate trips when other students were doing things he didn’t agree with, Keith was able to separate himself from it. “His moral character was just so strong” Kerri Barnhouse, Keith’s former debate coach says. According to Keith’s sister Brittany McConnell, he was friends with lots of his teachers.“There were teachers who had such interesting life experiences themselves and came from such interesting places.” Keith said. One of his teachers even helped spark his interest in the Middle East; one of his history teachers had a background in the Middle East and was really open to talking about the issues there. Keith mentioned that he’s still in touch with people from highschool and Keith thinks that West has helped lots of people succeed. “Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve found people from West High who have achieved just really amazing things” Keith says. In 2011, Keith was talking with someone important to the Libyan Revolution in Dubai, and they were talking about where they came from. The person Keith was talking to said he went to a highschool in Iowa, that Keith wouldn’t of heard of. But, it turned out to be West High, and that just proved how many smart and successful people have graduated from West.

   After highschool, Keith went to UC Berkeley and graduated in 2001. He was really interested in the middle east, and that led him to starting Arabic early in his career which helped him a lot in his career. He then went on to Cambridge. When Keith was there, his friend asked Keith to help him with a project based in Iraq.  When they were there, they worked on writing a book about a reconstruction program in Iraq and how it was planned, executed and what effect it had. The book is now finished and it’s called “Hard Lessons”. The book led him to many other opportunities.“From that point forward, I’ve basically lived in the middle east.” Keith said. After they finished the book Keith got an invitation to go to Fallujah and help people working in the state department. He helped them build relationships with themunicipal government and he assisted the municipal government in providing services and kinds of infrastructure for the local population. Keith works for the DAI and specializes in conflict environments, but not everything always works the way it needs to. “You can always ask yourself how much worse would this be if we weren’t here doing this kind of work.” Keith says. Every single project he does is a little different, but they’re all trying to help people’s lives and make things more peaceful. Keith met his wife through work, when he was in Libya he had people contacting him to make sure he was still safe,because there was lots of violence and the person who Keith would talk to was his future wife, they even have a kid together now. Keith has done many things in his career and everything he’s done has helped him get where he is now. “It really just came along, almost by accident, you know one interesting person after another.” Keith says.

Keith is still in touch with Iowa people and news. “One of the great things about the modern world is that you don’t have to be that far away ever. You know two nights ago I was watching Catilyn Clark throw down 42 points against Maryland on my living room television here” Keith explains. West had helped prepare him and many others for their futures.“It trains up this, I don’t want to call it an army, but a really interesting group of people with much more diversity to their experience and character than I think anyone would assume from a small town in Iowa” Keith told us. Keith has left a great impact on many people from West, his former debate coach, Kerri Barnhouse is grateful for meeting Keith early in her career. “I was lucky to have him so early in my teaching career.” She says. Keith’s sister, Brittany McConnell says “Keith was a great male role model to me and somebody to look up to.” Overall, Hunter Keith has achieved so many amazing things, and is very inspiring. “I never planned this, ” Keith says, talking about his job and where he’s at now. Now Keith is living in Tunis, Tunisia, and the project he’s working on is based off Libya. Keith’s last piece of advice for West High is “Learn languages, travel widely, try to at least believe in the idea that there are mysterious parts of the world that we can not really understand, but we can experience.”