Sili Mana'o -Savusa, Family Center Coordinator for Southwest Youth and Family Services, and Highline School District board member, says, "We are in a place where community has been saying for years, 'Come on people. Come on schools. Come on State. We're ready to move.' This is the opportunity I think." She spoke at a symposium laying out details of the Road Map Project for Education Results Dec. 9.
Road Map project to assist High Point, White Center students
Mayors, educators gather to put forth "cradle to college & career" initiative
Nearly 500 educators, advocates and area mayors filled the downtown Westin Seattle Hotel Dec. 9 as speakers spoke eagerly on the initiative "Road Map Project for Education Results" with a goal to build a new community partnership aimed at significantly increasing high school and college graduation results by 2020. The project calls this "cradle to college and career in South Seattle and South King County". The event was hosted by the Community Center for Education Results in Seattle, or CCER, and its new executive director, Mary Jean Ryan. The symposium alternated between speakers and break-away lectures.
Some mayors gathered on stage to show unified praise for the Road Map, including Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Former Mayor Norm Rice also appeared. He is President and CEO of the Seattle Foundation, a major sponsor. Other sponsors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, League of Education Voters, Seattle Community Colleges District, City of Seattle, Puget Sound Educational Service District, the Technology Access Foundation, OneAmerica, and the UW. Also participating were area community college and four-year college presidents.
"In West Seattle's High Point area, the enrollment area for West Seattle Elementary, Neighborhood House and other community organizations are banding together to do a very exciting project called 'A Promise Neighborhood', modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone's successful work of Geoffrey Canada," Ryan told the West Seattle Herald. "His goal is to get his kids to be college graduates. The Neighborhood House leadership team felt they could do the same. Student achievement outcomes are very poor, but the Seattle School District is involved in a turnaround for West Seattle Elementary.
"The Seattle Foundation yesterday (Dec. 8) approved a grant to help plan this effort," she said. "Another effort in White Center is a partnership between Southwest Youth and Family Services, the White Center Community Development Association and the Seattle Housing Authority who will work in partnership with Seattle University and the Yesler Terrace Community. These projects embody the Road Map and take it down to the neighborhood level."
"Geoffrey Canada is just incredible," enthused Steve Daschle, Executive Director, Southwest Youth and Family Services. "The Harlem Children's Zone project serves 10,000 students. Just Google his name. He's everywhere."
Amy Wilkens spoke at the event. She is Vice President for Government Affairs and Communications of the Education Trust, and community organizer with the Children’s Defense Fund, Democratic National Committee, Peace Corps, and the White House Office of Media Affairs. The West Seattle Herald asked her for her take on the importance of community colleges in light of their current budget challenges here in South Seattle and beyond.
"Community College is terribly important, especially for low income kids, kids of color where many start collage, so these colleges have a tremendous responsibility," she said. "But graduation rates make your heart sick."
According to 2007-2008 statistics, South Seattle Community College's graduation rate is 32 percent, lower among students of color.
"We have to plan a much better way for kids to get out with an associate's degree or credential that will lead to a job with a family-support wage," she added. "We can't just be excited about community college, we have to be critical friends. It's not OK just to say we have many missions and do lots of things. They have to get very serious to get kids to get the degree, and to follow through transfering to a four-year college."
"We are figuring out how we take our power back as parents (...) which is my roll serving on the Governor's Commission for Closing the Achievement Gap," said Sili Mana'o -Savusa, Family Center Coordinator for Southwest Youth and Family Services, and Highline School District board member. "We are in a place where community has been saying for years, 'Come on people. Come on schools. Come on State. We're ready to move.' This is the opportunity I think.
"How often do we ask the community what they want and they say, 'I want a brown suit, and we go back to our systems and institutions and return and say, 'Here is a beautiful blue suit.' Then they tell us they wanted a brown suit, not a blue suit, so then we go back to our institutions, do our work up, and we bring back brown shoes and knitted shorts. We haven't really listened, but the community should be at the table when we're talking about how to make the suit.
"We do a disservice when we silo ourselves away from each other, from our schools and districts. These are our schools. Any school in our state is our school, our mess, and we need to work together in a good way."