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Building a Path to Graduation: Success for Foster Youth

Not all young people believe that postsecondary education is possible for them. This is especially true for opportunity youth—young people who are disconnected from school and work.

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That’s where Seattle Education Access (SEA), a personalized education support program, comes in. With a growing network and a goal to have an education advocate at each of the region’s 10 community colleges and all of the region’s dropout re-engagement centers, SEA provides higher education access and opportunity to any person under age 30 experiencing poverty and homelessness. One of a growing group of organizations in the region offering “college navigation” services, SEA connects low-income students who have followed non-traditional education pathways to information and financial resources essential for college success. SEA’s education advocates remind young people that the future is theirs to shape. They give students the tools and the support to succeed.

SEA personalizes the support education advocates provide, addressing individual student needs and goals, through two distinct programs:

»» The College Prep Program helps youth prepare for higher education and meaningful employment by creating a career and academic achievement plan tailored to the student’s goals. Students learn how to navigate the education system, access financial aid, choose the right college and classes, make a budget and secure housing. SEA provides tutoring and support for the GED and COMPASS (college placement) tests.

»» The College Success Program offers ongoing support until a student graduates from college and transitions into the workforce. Students receive free tutoring and mentoring, computer access, scholarships for tuition, textbooks and basic needs, and assistance transferring to four-year universities.

The results have been extremely promising. Seventy percent to 75% of students enrolled in the College Prep Program go on to the College Success Program, according to SEA. Ninety percent of students in the College Success Program complete their program of study and earn a credential. SEA’s personal touch is proving popular, and the number of students it serves has grown steadily each year. In 2015, SEA anticipates serving 800-850 students, double the number served in 2011.

Program Manager Jeff Corey says relationship-building is one of the key components to SEA’s success. Education advocates typically work with students for three or four years, and the students transform their lives. “Sometimes this is the first time someone has ever told a student that he or she can go to college,” said Corey. “Seeing dreams become reality is a powerful thing.”