From building powerful leaders of change to bringing more young women of color into STEM, this year’s K-12 Education Grant finalists are working hard to ensure all students — regardless of income or race —graduate from high school ready to succeed in college or a career. SVP’s Education Grant Committee reviewed a record-breaking number of applications, as well as conducted phone interviews with the top candidates before selecting the following four finalists. Learn how they’re moving the needle for tomorrow’s leaders.
“We envision – and strive to create – a world where every child who has experienced foster care has the opportunities and support they need to pursue their dreams and become productive members of our community.”
Each morning, nearly 10,000 children in foster care in Washington State wake up to unfamiliar surroundings. In foster care, they are safe from physical harm and dangerous neglect, but they are far from out of the woods socially, emotionally and academically. Trauma and loss, changes in homes and schools and emotional upheaval cause them to perform worse than their peers on every academic measure.
Treehouse is the only organization in Washington State focused on the unique academic needs of youth in foster care. Serving students in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties, its youth-centered academic program, Graduation Success, helps youth in foster care engage and invest in their education and future. Treehouse Education Specialists work one-on-one with students to: Create their own plan for high school graduation and beyond; build problem-solving and self-advocacy skills; resolve education barriers like school transitions, special education needs, disciplinary actions, credit retrieval; and much more.
In 2012 Treehouse set the goal that by 2017 King County youth in foster care would graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers with a plan for the future. Treehouse has since not only closed this gap, but now Treehouse youth have a 5-year graduation rate of 89% — 7% higher than the general population. Having accomplished their 2012 goal, Treehouse has set a new goal for 2022: Youth in foster care across Washington State will graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers, with support and a plan to launch successfully into adulthood.
Washington Building Leaders of Change (WA-BLOC)
“Our vision is that South Seattle is a thriving nucleus of Black and Brown excellence where community-connected, place-based intergenerational leaders Harambee (come together) for equity, transformative education, and liberation.”
Washington Building Leaders of Change provides year-round embedded tutoring, mentoring and social justice leadership development at Rainier Beach High School. As an official sponsor of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools Summer Program, WA-BLOC advances racial equity by facilitating curriculum which celebrates brown and black heroes, facilitates instruction centered on student voice, and fosters collective social action.
A high-impact, six-week summer program, CDF Freedom Schools works with 100 South End Scholars to cultivate positive identity, halt summer learning loss via circle-based practice and culturally-responsive integrated reading curriculum. With a powerful summer head start, the program bridges the critical transition into middle and high school. WA-BLOC continues school year programming with peer mentorship and class-based tutors. College-age mentors, who reflect the student population they serve, support students and families to develop academic Habits of Success. Mentors also push into classes to support teachers and to build a positive culturally relevant learning environment and deepen student-adult engagement. WA-BLOC also collaborates with Rainier Beach High School and the community to organize around critical social justice issues through events, workshops, and project-based opportunities that highlight student leadership and voice.
WA-BLOC programs are designed to build strong, literate, and empowered youth, prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation and world.
Coalition for Refugees from Burma
“We seek to transform refugees to become advocates of our community, and to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate humanitarian and social support services to improve the living conditions and quality of life for resettled refugees.”
Coalition for Refugees from Burma works with parents and families who — having fled violence and oppression — are building a new life in the U.S. Among one of the most challenging aspects of transitioning into a new culture is guiding young refugees in the school system. Refugee youth experience a variety of obstacles due to interrupted formal education and in many cases post-traumatic stress. Moreover, the current political climate has stoked cases of discrimination and harassment for many of these youth.
CRB’s programs are designed to intentionally reach across linguistic, religious, and cultural barriers to foster a community that can learn from and grow with one another. Through on-site summer and after school educational programming, CRB works to ensure newly arrived students have the skills, information and resources needed to be successful in school, college and career. CRB also provides in-home tutoring where qualified tutors work with refugee youth who need individualized academic support. Additionally CRB goes beyond classroom instruction to equip their students with the skills and confidence to advocate for themselves. CRB matches youth with peer mentors, as well as hosts an intensive youth leadership training program, Youth Voices, culminating in a youth-led panel event.
Aside from a decline in chronic absents, suspensions and behavioral issues, success at CRB comes in the form of a flourishing and resilient youth who are curious and excited to learn.
“We envision a world where all girls have the opportunity to lead, contribute and thrive in STEM regardless of socioeconomic circumstances.”
Despite a thriving economy, growth in the Puget Sound region continues to disproportionately benefit the wealthiest households, leaving an ever-widening gap in income. Amid this, women represent just 12% of the U.S. engineering workforce, of which only 2% are under-represented minority women. Washington State is no exception. Youth in low-income communities — especially girls and minorities — are not positioned to take advantage of our fastest-growing STEM sectors. A 2014 study found that up to 50,000 Washington-based STEM jobs may go unfilled by 2017, and only one in four STEM jobs is held by a woman. We are failing to prepare Washington’s children, especially girls, to pursue jobs in their own backyards. Techbridge Girls sees STEM as a vehicle to advance a girl on a path to economic mobility and freedom.
Partnering with Title-I schools throughout South King County, Techbridge Girls provides out-of-school time programs that build girls’ interest – and confidence – to pursue STEM pathways of all types. Girls learn through “hands-on, minds-on,” culturally-responsive interactive curriculum. Beyond simply offering afterschool programs, Techbridge Girls’ creates a powerful web of ongoing support for girls. They guide families in encouraging their daughters’ pursuits; train teachers to better support girls, particularly girls from low-economic communities; and harnesses the power of STEM role models and employers to provide girls with inspiration and encouragement.
Fighting for equitable opportunity, diverse inclusion and economic freedom requires a new kind of leadership. Techbridge Girls stands ready to step into this leadership role mobilizing the STEM ecosystem on behalf of girls from low-income communities most at risk for being left out and behind.
In the coming weeks, SVP’s K-12 Education Grant Committee will visit these nonprofits to learn more about their work and meet their teams. Then, the difficult decision-making process to select one organization as SVP’s next investee. The investee will receive an unrestricted grant with the intention of multi-year funding. The grant will be coupled with volunteer and paid consultants who will help to strengthen the organization for greater impact.
If you are interested in participating in SVP’s next grant committee, kicking off in the fall, please email Ben Mitchell. Plus, check out these upcoming education sessions that mirror key aspects of the grant committee learning process, without the six-month commitment!