Change Makers Program

Lays Foundation for SUYI's Pathway to High School, College and Beyond

Change Makers

The Campaign for the Uncommon Good brought the Seattle University Youth Initiative (SUYI) closer to its goal of providing cradle to career support services for local families. Central to this goal is building pathways from elementary school through high school and beyond that are welcoming, well-defined, enriching and responsive for SUYI scholars and their caregivers, especially those marginalized by the education system.

Change Makers, a new 8th-12th grade cohort-based leadership program launched at Washington Middle School, provides the foundation for a seamless high school to college pathway. Building upon the Redhawk Academic Mentoring Program (RAMP) that has operated at Washington for several years with support from College Spark and the Schultz Family Foundation, Change Makers supports high school transition readiness, career exploration and community building. Seattle U will grant admission and full tuition scholarships to all Change Makers who meet program requirements and choose Seattle University.

"Change Makers focuses on SUYI neighborhood youth who are furthest from educational justice and who, along with their families, lack a sense of belonging in the education system,” says LaKesha Kimbrough, Center for Community Engagement (CCE) Washington Middle School Site Manager, who oversees the program. “Many are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), immigrants and English language-learners. The program’s goal is to ease the transition to high school for scholars and their caregivers, and through the 15-member cohort model, to build a strong, lasting peer network."

AmeriCorps Washington Middle School Coordinator Lauren Maland, who manages the Change Makers Program shares, "We really believe in scholars loving learning. Unfortunately, not all scholars get an opportunity to love learning due to barriers in the educational system. Change Makers draws out scholars' innate skills and abilities in a supportive environment where their love for learning can flourish, and they begin to see themselves as capable, college-bound students."

While in middle school, participating scholars must apply for the College Bound Scholarship which covers average tuition at public college rates at more than 65 Washington colleges, universities and tech schools. Scholars must also maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average throughout the Change Makers program and participate in weekly check-ins.

Family engagement is key to the program’s success. Information is shared with families as they accompany and support their scholar along the pathway to college, and opportunities are being planned for parents to shape and lead college-related family activities.

Beyond funding the initial build-out phase of the high school to college pathway, donor support through the Campaign for the Uncommon Good funded the renovation of a classroom at Washington Middle School designated for SUYI work, creating a welcoming environment for Change Makers, RAMP program participants and their families.

"When Washington Middle School turned over a classroom for Youth Initiative work, we felt it was both an endorsement of this work and an opportunity to make the space inviting for scholars and welcoming for families,” says Alan Frazier, Community Engagement Task Force Co-Chair for the Campaign. “Several of our friends felt likewise and helped to fund this worthwhile project. The renovation includes fresh paint, new flooring, desks for small group work and a small kitchen. Importantly, we added a comfortable sofa and chairs for parents and families when they come for meetings. COVID certainly delayed the project, but the work is now finished. We’re excited to see even more energy and more family visits to the brand new and inviting space."

Launch of the initial Change Makers cohort was planned for March 2020. Unfortunately, this coincided with the unanticipated COVID-19 closure of Seattle Public Schools, forcing the staff team to move the program start date to summer as they transitioned the curricula to an online format. The scholars continued to engage virtually throughout the school year, building trust and strong bonds with Seattle U student mentors and with one another. Seattle U student mentors, community partners and the CCE staff team will continue to support the Change Makers cohort throughout high school.

The CCE will create a new donor fund to support Change Makers as they make their way through high school to Seattle U. In anticipation of the first Change Makers cohort entering Seattle U in 2025, the donor fund will help meet the scholars’ needs beyond the cost of tuition including housing, books and other costs of living during college.

"We don’t want anything to hinder our scholars’ access to education,” Kimbrough says, “and we know that the cost of student housing alone can impact a family’s decision. We’re working with intention to fully build out the pathway of supports for scholars and families involved with the Seattle University Youth Initiative, and this investment solidifies our support from birth to and through college."