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Seattle University


Taking the Initiative…Further

Written by Mike Thee
July 15, 2015

With a $150,000 grant from College Spark, the Seattle University Youth Initiative will deepen its partnership with Washington Middle School and expand services to low-income youth in the greater Yesler Terrace/Bailey Gatzert neighborhood. 

This summer, staff from SU and Washington Middle School will collaborate on the hiring of a full-time professional school success coordinator to oversee the university's engagement at the school. 

In the fall, Seattle University will recruit and place 40 specially trained SU undergraduates from majors across campus, with a focus on College of Science and Engineering majors to support so serve as academic mentors at WMS. 

Washington Middle School students on a recent visit to Seattle University

Also in the fall SU will help launch Strengthening Families, an evidence-based parenting skills program, which SU introduced to the Bailey Gatzert Elementary School community two years ago. 

"Seattle University is thrilled to receive a College Spark Grant," said Kent Koth, director of the Center for Service and Community Engagement and the Seattle University Youth Initiative. "Building on the success of the initial years of the Seattle University Youth Initiative and our work at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, this grant will enable us to significantly deepen and expand our partnerships to support neighborhood middle schoolers. We know from research that universities and community organizations can work collectively with public schools to attain great results for all children; this grant puts this theory into action." 

The Seattle University Youth Initiative launched in 2011 with the initial goal of improving academic achievement for low-income youth by providing academic and family support at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School. The initiative received the 2012 Presidential Award for community service. 

From the outset, the initiative's plan is to create a pipeline of support for neighborhood youth, throughout their elementary, middle school and high school years.

In 2013, the project expanded to Washington Middle School and currently includes individualized mentoring support for academically at-risk 6th graders. 

College Spark Washington funds programs across Washington state that help low-income students become college-ready and earn their degrees. SU is one of nine entities receiving funding under College Spark's Community Grants Program

"The goal of the Community Grants Program is to increase degree completion rates for low-income students," said Christine McCabe, executive director at College Spark. "(The programs receiving funding) represent promising college readiness and college transition programs in Washington state."