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Seattle University


Nationally Recognized

Written by Mike Thee
March 13, 2012

Seattle University has earned the federal government’s highest recognition for volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement. Out of nearly 800 schools, SU is one of just five colleges and universities to receive the 2012 Presidential Award. SU was chosen as the top institution in the "Promise Neighborhoods" category in recognition of work with neighbors and community partners through the Seattle University Youth Initiative.

The news was also reported in various media outlets, including the front page of Monday's Seattle Times, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal and Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Youth Initiative was launched in February 2012 as a long-term campus-wide commitment by faculty, staff and students to join parents, the Seattle Public School District, the City of Seattle, faith communities and more than 50 community organizations to help children in the Bailey Gatzert neighborhood thrive in school, attend college and succeed in life. That the effort would receive national recognition just a year after its public launch speaks to the strong and growing partnerships SU shares with its neighbors, said Kent Koth, who directs the initiative. Koth also pointed to the four years of planning the university conducted in close collaboration with its neighbors before the launch.

In his announcement to campus, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., echoed Koth, saying, "Our partnership with families and others in the community has just begun, but great momentum is already gathering behind the initiative. We are in this effort for the long haul, and we won't be satisfied until every child in our neighborhood graduates from high school and has an opportunity to go to college. We share this honor with our partners in the community, the Seattle Public School District, neighbors and most of all the inspiring youth of the neighborhood who teach us so much about resilience and hope."

Provost accepts award

The Presidential Award was presented to SU at the American Council on Education's annual meeting on Monday, with Provost Isiaah Crawford accepting the honor on the university's behalf.

"This is a wonderful affirmation of the Seattle University Youth Initiative," Crawford said. "I am particularly proud of the many and varied ways our faculty are engaging with the initiative as educators and scholars. By creating new service-learning opportunities in the neighborhood and through other activities, our professors are modeling how academic excellence can be a force for positive change in our immediate neighborhood."

Partnership already flourishing

The SUYI, Sundborg noted, is already bearing fruit:

  • SU partnered with the Seattle Housing Authority to attain a $10.4 million "Choice Neighborhood" grant to support redevelopment of the Yesler Terrace public housing community, including $1.5 million to enhance the educational pipeline for more than 500 children. Only five such grants were given nationally. 
  • Forty-two Seattle University faculty members from 26 disciplines engaged nearly 1,000 students in our neighborhood through 87 course sections that included a service-learning component. Additionally, non-academic campus departments and programs participated in 40 SUYI-related projects. 
  • The SUYI Community-based Research Faculty Fellows Program was created and will be awarded annually to support five faculty members in conducting research projects with community partners to improve the quality of life of youth and families in the neighborhood. 
  • Seattle University worked is collaborating with five non-profit organizations and a dozen teachers to provide an after-school enrichment program for 120 Bailey Gatzert Elementary School students; 80 SU students are involved. 
  • The university donated 40 computers to Bailey Gatzert to support the school's growing emphasis on computer literacy. 
  • Faculty, staff and students are providing support to parents and neighborhood families through educational programming, citizenship classes, tax assistance, computer literacy, health education and more. 

The other four institutions receiving the 2012 Presidential Award are: North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.; Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tenn.; Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; and University of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pa. 

For more information on SU's recognition, visit Presidential Award.