“My Volunteer Experience is Equal Parts Inspiring and Gut Wrenching.”

Meet Mohammad: Gap Scholarship Committee, Board observer, math tutor and volunteer extraordinaire. 

My experience as an SEA volunteer has been equal parts inspiring and gut-wrenching. Last August, I joined another volunteer and full-time SEA staff member on a bright Saturday morning to interview students for the Gap Scholarships. From chipping in with tuition, childcare, transportation and securing housing, the Gap Scholarship is a flexible fund that provides financial support to students when they need it most.

Since the scholarship fund is limited, we interview new applicants to determine which students have the highest need and urgency. Over the course of 8 hours, we conducted a total of 13 interviews with students. In each student interview, we posed the same question set: “What are your higher education goals? Where are your underlying passions and interests derived from? What obstacles currently stand in the way of achieving said goals? How will the Gap Scholarship help you overcome said obstacles and, ultimately, achieve what you’ve set out to accomplish?”

Although the outputs (higher education goals) varied widely among the students, the inputs (the genesis of each student’s interests/passions) converged by-and-large to the same point. SEA students are self-aware, driven individuals who are out to actualize dreams that were deferred as a result of unforeseen life circumstances. In my interactions with SEA students that day, I was reminded of the following adage about character, “Character isn’t determined by what befalls you, but rather by how you respond to those unexpected challenges.”

After completing the interviews, we took a moment to review our notes on students’ interviews and application packages. During the subsequent deliberation on scholarship funding allocation, I felt a deep sadness upon realizing that we would not be able to meet the full monetary need of each applicant–let alone half of the monetary needs of all the Gap scholarship applicants. This wave of sadness was compounded when I thought of the asymmetry between the rather inconsequential scholarship award amount each student was requesting and the sizable benefit of that funding to each student.

Scholarship funding has a significant and immediate impact on student trajectories, since students request funding at crucial points in their educational journeys. Many applicants need a Gap Scholarship to cover their rent, help with childcare, tuition, certification fees, and so much more. Student requests last quarter totaled $64,308, while SEA only had $40,000 to allocate. This is a huge discrepancy ($24,308 deficit > 50% of quarterly fund)!

So, when you consider donating to SEA, think of the 10x, 20x, 30x, impact in students’ lives, both in the short and long term. Your generosity is inextricably linked to SEA’s ability to consistently provide support to students.

Donating to SEA gives you, the donor, a proverbial seat at the table during deliberations on scholarship allocation and creates an uptick in the total Gap Scholarship pool. Providing timely monetary support via the Gap Scholarship enables SEA students to continue their educational journeys, achieving their higher education goals and creating economic opportunity for both themselves and their loved ones.

For many, the Gap Scholarship is the difference between a student staying enrolled in school and dropping out. It’s time! With another round of scholarships right around the corner, join me in making a tax-deductible gift today and help us support over 800 young people across King County on their way to college degrees.




Mohammad Jama

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“They believe in us.”

Education has always been important to me — it is one of the main reasons why I decided to migrate to the United States. When I figured out what I wanted to do professionally, I decided to put all my energy into achieving that goal. My dream is to become a structural engineer so that I can design and build bridges. I knew school was going to be hard in terms of the workload, and expensive when it came to tuition. However, no one told me that in addition to these challenges, I was going to be faced with constantly proving my worth as a human being, that I would have to explain and defend my humanity to individuals and institutions, over and over.

I am a person who is undocumented. A person who, like many other people, has been forced to leave their hometown due to the lack of opportunity, with the hopes of creating a better life. Navigating the education system has been interesting to say the least. I started my education journey at a local community college, where I obtained my GED. There I also got a taste of what the “college experience” would look like for me. When I met up with an advisor to plan the path to reach my goal, I was told that as an undocumented person I had no right to go to college. This type of rejection was not new to me. Previously in my life, my immigration status had prevented me from professional growth. Nonetheless, I had to take the risk to be honest and open about my situation to avoid being pointed in the wrong direction.

Consequently, I decided to look into North Seattle College (NSC), where I found not only a vast amount of resources, but a community of knowledgeable people. Usually the responsibility of assisting minorities falls on a few people, making the assistance limited. At NSC, this was not different, yet I feel grateful for the small amount of people there who had done their homework. I am particularly thankful for the academic advisors. They proactively informed me of resources, such as financial aid, scholarships, counseling, as well as the benefits and risks that come in these processes.

For the most part, my time at NSC was pleasant. It definitely became more intense as the time to make preparations to transfer to a university approached. The process of applying to college is intricate on its own. It was new to me and especially overwhelming due to the barriers presented by my status. Additionally, while I was working on these applications, the political climate had started to intensify towards a more negative direction. Racist and hateful practices were starting to be normalized. All over, fear and uncertainty started to increase.

In my life, I have encountered and overcame difficult experiences. However, I had never experienced anxiety and stress in the way that I was experiencing it around this time. At this point, I was referred by a dear friend of mine to Seattle Education Access (SEA). At first, I was hesitant to contact SEA because I thought things would not be different, but I realized I had nothing to lose. I called SEA and met Penny Lipsou, an Education Advocate. Once again, I had to go to through the exhausting process of explaining my situation to a stranger with scarce hopes of finding actual help. However, here is where my college experience changed in a way I did not expect.

Penny is an amazing human being. She actively listened and let me know that she was there to help in any way I needed. To be honest, in the beginning I was skeptical of how much she wanted to help. This sense of doubt came from previous experiences where all I encountered were doors slammed in my face. Penny’s kindness, values, and hard work ethic, along with her resourcefulness and reliability, were a few elements that encouraged me to keep coming back to build trust with her. As we worked together more, I mentioned to Penny the importance of finding resources available to undocumented students in universities.

Penny went with me to visit university campuses. With her by my side, I felt supported going through this process, which I had greatly feared previously. The process of applying to college was extremely stressful. It seemed that on each application, I was essentially explaining the worthiness of my existence to institutions that have not been designed for undocumented students to succeed. In the process of working on these applications, I started experiencing intense self-doubt and high levels of anxiety. Thanks to Penny, I became aware of my mental health. She provided me with resources that are now allowing me to navigate and define what self-care looks like to me.

Multiple times, I have mentioned the positive impact that the work Penny is doing through SEA has made in my life. I know I am the one doing the work, but I am only able to do the work because Penny has my back. Thanks to Penny’s support, I was able to complete my prerequisites and end my time at NSC with a 3.81 GPA. Currently, I am at Seattle University in the Civil Engineering program. My tuition has been fully covered by scholarships and grants. Penny has provided me with tools that have empowered me. These connections have increased my confidence and my level of comfort in being more open about my status.

Times are still tough. Undocumented communities have become a target for the new administration. With the termination of DACA, there is a lot of uncertainty within our community. I have been focusing my efforts on continuing the work that other undocumented students have started at Seattle University. In order to support my community, I have started the Scarlet Group – a peer support network for undocumented students and allies at Seattle University.

The priceless support that Penny and SEA have provided me has empowered me to work on my schoolwork to reach my goal of becoming an engineer. Furthermore, it has increased my motivation to help others in the future. I am grateful to have made that call to SEA and to have met Penny.

This holiday season, please consider a tax-deductible gift of $250, $100 or $50 or more to Seattle Education Access so over 800 young people across King County can follow their dreams. SEA is the only college access program in Washington serving students not in traditional high schools who are facing profound hardships. Their Education Advocates help us decide on a career, choose academic program, apply for school and funding, study for tests, get school supplies, and connect us to childcare and other resources. Most importantly, they believe in us.






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“Having an Education Advocate made the whole process 1,000 times easier.”

SEA student Margarita is studying to be a nurse and receives support through SEA’s Mody Scholarship Fund, started by Simmone & Ashok Misra

My name is Margarita and I am 24 years old. This is my second year attending Renton Technical College and I am currently working on my pre-nursing classes, in order to get into a nursing program. My ultimate goal is and has always been to become a nurse. My father has had some health issues and I want to be more knowledgeable about medicine in order to better understand his experiences in the hospital or when he gets sick – and I want job stability.

Last year was my first year back in the educational world since leaving high school. If anyone ever asked me why that 5-year delay, I have to attribute it to two main reasons: the first one, money and the second, the fact that in my family I am the first generation to attend higher level education.

That combination can seriously intimidate anyone from pursuing their dreams, especially without having anyone to guide them or share knowledge about a world that is known very little of. My sister, who graduated from Renton Technical College, worked with SEA Education Advocate Jeff and suggested I ask for assistance with financial aid. When I found out about Seattle Education Access and all the services it offered, it gave me that boost I needed to return to school. Having an Education Advocate made the whole process 1,000 times easier.

I remember the exact moment I walked into Nicollette’s office and basically said “I’m ready to go back to school!” Her next words were even better, “Okay. Where do you want to go?” That question made me smile and assured me of so much. She let me know that if I ever had questions about anything, she was there to help. Ever since I met her, she hasn’t let me down!

Last year, I was super fortunate to receive a scholarship award through SEA’s Mody Fund and it was a tremendous help! Fall quarter, I was able to use my funds to pay for the portion of the tuition that my financial aid wasn’t able to cover. This was the best way to start of the year. I was able to focus on my studies and not worry about how I was going to pay my tuition or supplies. Winter quarter, I again was awarded more money and in the long run it helped tremendously. At the end of Spring quarter, I was left in debt, due to a few errors made by the financial aid office. Mind you, a much smaller debt because of the huge help SEA has been! But to be honest if it wasn’t for all the help SEA has given me, the pure thought of going back to school wouldn’t been possible.

Last year’s SEA scholarship helped me come back to school and stay in school. These funds have given me the opportunity to focus more on my studies than on how to pay for them. This year, it means the same and more. When I last left school I had a debt, a huge one for me. I didn’t know how I would be able to pay it off. Nicollette and I were able to work on a plan that gave me more peace at mind. This plan proved to be successful as I am now back enrolled in classes without a financial burden.

At this very moment, I am more than ready and inspired to work harder to accomplish my goal of becoming a nurse! This scholarship has given me that last boost I needed to hit the floor running and continue to work towards a dream my younger self created and all thanks to Seattle Education Access and The Mody Fund!



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The Mody Fund – Simmone & Ashok Misra

In 2015, Simmone and Ashok Misra were looking for a chance to offer financial support to women who were facing barriers to pursing their education. On the recommendation of a friend, they contacted Seattle Education Access to see if they could support women of color with scholarship funds. Of SEA’s 800+ students, 55% are women and 77% are people of color; we knew many women served by SEA could use their support.

In October of that year, Simmone and Ashok established the Anil K. Mody Scholarship Fund, named in honor of Simmone’s father, to provide college scholarships to women of color enrolled in SEA’s programs in King County.

Dr. Anil K. Mody was a private individual who believed in the transformative power of education. He grew up at the time when conditions in his home country of India were not conducive for higher education, so he lived in Germany for 8 years to pursue a PhD in chemistry from the University of Stuttgart, followed by some work experience at German pharmaceutical companies.

It was always Dr. Mody’s desire to return to India after his higher education and to contribute to society in his home country. India was a developing country at that time, having just recently obtained her independence from British colonial rule. In fact, he did return after his PhD and he set up the first manufacturing facility for industrial strength adhesives in India. Unfortunately, Dr. Mody passed away at the very young age of 42, and was survived by his wife and two daughters. With the loss of the main earning member of the hous-ehold, the family faced some difficult times.

However, he had the foresight to invest in an education fund for his daughters and, thanks to the investment her parents had made, Simmone was able to complete her higher education. This was truly transformative for Simmone. Notwithstanding the difficult circumstances, she was liberated by the education she was able to pursue, so Simmone thought it was fitting to create this scholarship in the name of her father.

Now two years in, The Anil K. Mody Fund has now supported 12 women in their studies, including Margarita. Funds have covered books, childcare, tuition, and transportation for women looking to go into law and policy, nursing, education, medical office administration, business, marketing, computer networking, and international relations.

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Part-Time Student, Full-Time Homeless


The backpack Michael carries to campus is full of books and notebooks, things college students usually carry. It also often contains toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant, soap, extra clothes — things most students would leave at home.

But this 19-year-old doesn’t have a home…Keep reading and see the video at https://kcts9.org/programs/spark-public/part-time-student-full-time-homeless-in-college

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“I would have never been able to come this far.”

“It was summer of 2016 and I had been unemployed for a few months Sang-Won2with the hope of getting into college. It had been a dream of mine ever since I graduated from high school several years ago. However, I was struggling with how to enroll in college, what to do with the financial aid application process and I was in fear of running out of my savings. I just moved back from Japan in 2015, and even though I was born and lived in the U.S. in my early childhood, everything was new and exciting but at the same time foreign and sometimes frustrating to me.

Then I found Seattle Education Access online. I was in desperate need of help for all the application processes and with academic preparation, so I reached out to the SEA by myself. I was introduced to my Education Advocate, Penny. Even though it was right before the start of fall quarter, Penny was able to help me with finishing class registration and financial aid applications, and I was able to get into college classes in a timely manner. She really helped me feel comfortable on the college campus. Penny connected me to Drew, an SEA tutor, who was a great help in preparing for placement tests. I assumed I would be placed into developmental classes, but, unexpectedly, I did well on the tests and was placed right into college-level classes.

I have greatly relied on their continued support throughout the following quarters, even extending beyond academic affairs. Penny has been a huge support for resources in and outside school; she has helped me apply for and earn scholarships, get health care, go through the complicated paperwork at school, and so on. To be honest, studying at college has been difficult for me with my limited English ability and my long break after graduating high school. Although thanks to Drew’s tutoring help, I have been able to hang on to the fast-paced college course load. I even earned a 3.5 GPA in my first quarter of college.

Without them, I would have never been able to come this far. I am looking forward to continuing my studies and transferring onto a 4-year college. I am still deciding what my major would be, but I want to complete a Bachelor’s degree and eventually gain more English, academic and employable skills.  My dream is to use my bilingual ability to work in a global setting. I thank you for your continuous support and investment to my success through Seattle Education Access.”

– Sang-Won

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“Asmaa has strengthened my determination”

“Growing up in a Mandinka society, my parents were always motivating me just to mFatou2ake sure I pursue a better education, not just getting a master’s degree but also a PhD. My parents never got the opportunity to sit in a college environment, which was why they encouraged me to be better than them. My family always motivated me and made me have this belief that in order to be successful in this life, you need to set high standards for yourself.

At a very young age, I was lucky enough to see life differently from the way it was viewed by some of my childhood friends. Living thousand miles away from my family was very tough for me, especially so young. I was forced to learn how to deal with moving away from the people I cherish so much and the only people that have been there for me since I was born, and adopt a new way of living my life without them.

My trip to the United States changed my life from a young innocent child to the lady I am today. From being a dropout, I had an opportunity to join the Career Education Options (CEO) program, which is mainly for high school dropouts. I was lucky enough to meet with social worker from King County who introduced me to Asmaa.

Asmaa has strengthened my determination and l really appreciate her effort and commitment towards me. Being part of the SEA program has marked a turning point in my life. They provide me with all the necessary tools I need to accomplish my goals. Asmaa also helped connect me with a mentor who will help me further my career and improve my French.”


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