Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. today announced the launch of the Seattle University Youth Initiative (SUYI). The initiative will bring the university’s entire campus community together to improve the academic achievement of low-income youth living in the Bailey Gatzert neighborhood, provide support for vulnerable families and strengthen the university’s educational programs.
The Youth Initiative will be a long-term campus-wide commitment by faculty, staff and students to join parents, the Seattle School District, the City of Seattle, faith communities and more than 30 community organizations to help children succeed in grades K-12, attend college and succeed in life.
Children and families living in the area served by Bailey Gatzert, just south of SU, face significant challenges. For example, youth violence and juvenile incarceration are among the highest in Seattle. Many area youth face significant academic challenges throughout their educational experience, creating barriers to graduating from high school - and a lack of access to higher education.
“Our dedication to helping and working side by side with underserved populations and those in need is proven and unwavering,” said President Sundborg. “The crisis is acute in our own backyard, and with community-building collaboration, we can make a difference.”
Nearly 18,000 people live in the Bailey Gatzert neighborhood with 36 percent living at or below the poverty level. During the 2009-10 academic year more than 90 percent of all children qualified for free or reduced lunch. The Bailey Gatzert district is bordered by Cherry Street to the north, South Dearborn to the south and between Alaskan Way and 23rd Avenue.
In developing the SUYI, the university drew upon nationally recognized models of neighborhood development such as the Harlem Children’s Zone. Immediate action steps include providing academic support for elementary school students, wraparound services for families, support for community-based organizations and activating programs in the university’s eight schools and colleges to provide service to children and families. There will also be research opportunities for faculty and learning for students. Liaisons at eachcollege and school will work to develop and implement Youth Initiative activities that complement the strategic direction of their given school, college or division.
Seattle University already has a national reputation for service to community. Three-fourths of SU students complete a service project during their time at SU.
“Seattle University is dedicated to succeed in working with children and their parents so that students can be successful in school and life,” said Father Sundborg. “The Youth Initiative represents what I believe will be one of the most significant efforts in the history of our university and expands on the mission of a Jesuit Catholic university.”
For further information on the Seattle University Youth Initiative please visit: www.seattleu.edu/suyi