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Welcome New Investee Washington Building Leaders of Change

Posted by Cecilia Garza

photo / WA-BLOC

Washington Building Leaders of Change (WA-BLOC) envisions South Seattle as a thriving nucleus of Black and Brown excellence.

As an official sponsor of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)  Freedom Schools 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.

Their work with young people in the Rainier Beach area centers on four pillars to cultivating strong leaders: intergenerational leadership, restorative justice, youth & parent engagement and racial equity. With these at their core, WA-BLOC provides year-around embedded tutoring, mentoring and social justice leadership development at Rainier Beach High School, and most recently South Shore Pk-8.

This spring, SVP’s K-12 Education Grant Committee selected WA-BLOC as our next SVP Investee, awarding an initial grant of $30,000 and the intention of a multi-year relationship that includes volunteer and paid consulting services.

Grant committee members were impressed and inspired by WA-BLOC’s commitment to elevating the voices and assets of the Rainier Beach community through its schools. Following SVP’s site visit, SVP Partner Lilliane Ballesteros said:

“WA-BLOC has racial equity ingrained in their work. They are directly, not just reaching, but engaging and being informed and led by students of color and families of color who are most affected by racial inequities. We see this with students being included in decision making and conversations about the organization’s strategy and vision. Several students and alumni of WA-BLOC joined the site visit and spoke about the program, not just how it is today, but their vision for the program in the future. The organization is heavily led by people of color and people who live in the Rainier Beach community.”

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 then 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 support teachers to build a positive culturally-relevant learning environment and deepen student-adult engagement.

Outside the classroom, WA-BLOC 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.

Of the many reasons SVP’s grant committee selected WA-BLOC, the committee was most excited about:

  • WA-BLOC’s dedication to centering the voices of students throughout their work and in leadership;
  • The place-based approach ensures the organization is grounded in community and dedicated to this work, a true vision for long term impact.
  • Their understanding of community needs and priorities leads them to be advocacy leaders. For example, following a peaceful march named Day of Social Justice, the organization recently  won city funding to create the Youth ORCA Program.
  • The staff is energetic, the programming is personal, and the work is impactful – there is a lot to be said for this energy and the potential for growth.

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